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Why have the tropics been so quiet?

An anemic hurricane season continues defying expert predictions.
Credit: KHOU

With nearly half of the Atlantic hurricane season in the books, the basin has gone without seeing a named storm since July 3 for the first time since 1941.

In fact, as we finish August, we are about to set a record for the longest gap between tropical system formation going back to the mid 1990s.

This slow start has defied above-average, pre-seasonal forecasts from experts.

These forecasts weren't without merit, though.  This year will mark the third year in a row that La Nina has dominated across the Western Hemisphere.  During a La Nina year, above-normal tropical activity is typical across the Atlantic, as we saw in 2020 and 2021.

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The reason for this is reduced wind shear across the Atlantic, a major inhibitor of storm development.  So what happened this year?

Credit: KHOU

Three ingredients are necessary for tropical storms and hurricanes: warm water, saturated air, and low wind shear.  ALL THREE of these ingredients must be present.  

Water temperatures from the Main Development Region (MDR) into the Caribbean and Gulf are adequately warm enough to support development.

RELATED: 2022 Hurricane Preparedness Guide

Credit: KHOU

Dry air and Saharan dust concentrations have dropped from early season peaks, typical of what is expected this time of year.  With sufficient moisture in the air and warm ocean waters, that leaves one substantial factor: wind shear.

Through the entire month of August, a long corridor of wind shear has stretched across the Atlantic from the Gulf and Caribbean up towards Spain.  This has created a hostile environment for any tropical waves making the journey west from the Africa coast.

Credit: KHOU

While the season has started on a quiet note, it is important to realize that we are only halfway through the season and moving into the most historically active time of year.

Credit: KHOU

Follow the KHOU 11 Weather Team for the latest updates on the forecast:

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