Uh oh. Hurricane season has started early.
On Saturday (the 19th), when Tropical Storm Alberto spun up off the Carolina coast, forecaster Brennan of the National Hurricane Center had this to say:
ALBERTO IS EARLIEST-FORMING TROPICAL STORM IN THE ATLANTIC BASIN SINCE ANA IN 2003. THIS IS ALSO THE FIRST TIME THAT A TROPICAL STORM HAS FORMED BEFORE THE OFFICIAL START OF THE HURRICANE SEASON IN BOTH THE ATLANTIC AND EAST PACIFIC BASINS.
2003 was a busy season; and following on the record heat of March, a strong hurricane season wouldn’t be so very surprising. Or would it?
The truth is that heat isn’t the only thing that influences hurricanes, and this year, the pre-season hurricane forecasts are sort of all over the place. Some are predicting an above-average season, some a below average season; it all seems to centrally depend on whether or not El Nino kicks in. This global weather pattern tends to suppress hurricanes in the Atlantic, though it can be rocket fuel for them in the Pacific.
The current El Nino forecast, from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, says we’re in what are called “ENSO neutral” conditions and those are expected to persist through summer. After that, it’s fifty-fifty whether we’ve got El Nino or a continuance of neutral conditions.
So far, NOAA has not yet released its much anticipated May 2012 Atlantic hurricane forecast, which hopefully will make more sense of this and other variables. I’d expect that any day now.