Jeff co-founded the Weather Underground in 1995 while working on his Ph.D. He flew with the NOAA Hurricane Hunters from 1986-1990.
By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 11:29 AM GMT on June 30, 2005
OK, blink and you'll miss this tropical storm. Tropical Storm Bret formed last night in the Bay of Campeche off Mexico, and is already on its way ashore. By tonight, it should be well inland and not even classifiable as a tropical depression.
Bret is the 2nd troical storm to form in the Atlantic this June, which is an unusual amount of activity for June. Since 1851, there have only been 12 occurrences of two or more tropical storms in the month of June, most recently in 1986. Does this portend an active hurricane season? Well, if we look at the plot of hurricane activity for 1986, we see that although that year had two June tropical cyclones, the rest of the year was well below average, with a total of only 6 tropical cyclones (11 is average). I remember the year well, it was the first year I flew into hurricanes as a member of the Hurricane Hunters. I was excited about doing a lot of flying that year, and my first flight of my career happened in June of that year. I flew into Hurricane Bonnie, a weak category one hurricane that hit Texas. The sight of huge waves crashing into the oil rigs we flew over, all lit up at night by Bonnie's lightning, made for an unforgettable first flight. But unfortunately for me, (and fortunately for the residents of the Atlantic Seaboard) the rest of the season was a dud, and we ended up having to fly down to Puerto Vallarta to chase hurricanes over the Eastern Pacific. In those days, the NOAA hurricane hunters were given 100 - 200 flight hours to use for hurricane research, and if there were no worthy Atlantic storms, we often worked storms off of Mexico in the Eastern Pacific. Actually Puerto Vallarta was not so bad a place to work out of! We stayed at a great beach front hotel (cheap since it was the off-season), and watched huge waves from Hurricane Paine smash down the 10-foot seawall protecting our hotel's swimming pool and push the debris into the pool.
Examination of other Junes reveals that there is no significant correlation between June tropical storm activity and the rest of hurricane season. However, the position and intensity of the Bermuda High and sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic are more typical of what things should be like a month from now. We are already beginning to see strong tropical waves with impressive satellite presentations come off the coast of Africa, and that is unusual for June. In fact, the GFS model takes one of those waves and develops it into a hurricane next week as it sweeps north of the Leeward Islands, past Bermuda around July 6, then out to sea. It will be interesting to see if the GFS model is correct. If so, this would likely be the harbinger of an active hurricane season.
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