Epsilon has been upgraded to a 75-mph hurricane, only the 6th December hurricane ever recorded. Epsilon joins the ranks of Hurricane Nichole
(1998), Hurricane Lili
(1984), Hurricane Alice
(1954), an unnamed 1925 storm
, and an unnamed hurricane from 1887
as the only December hurricanes recorded in the Atlantic. Epsilon's location is the second farthest north and east of any December hurricane (next to Nicole of 1998), and marks the record 14th hurricane to form in the Atlantic this year. The previous record was 12 hurricanes, set in 1969.
Epsilon is apparently traversing a very narrow ribbon of relatively warm ocean waters of 75 - 77 F (22-23C), which has allowed its intensification. Water temperatures across the entire North Atlantic are still unusually high, averaging about 2 F higher than normal. Very cool waters of about 70 F (21 C) lie just 200 miles from Epsilon, so its intensification to hurricane status is likely short-lived. By Saturday night, cold waters and increasing wind shear should put an end to Epsilon's life--and perhaps the Hurricane Season of 2005.
Long range computer models are forecasting somewhat favorable conditions for tropical storm formation to return next week to the Caribbean Sea, and last through mid-December. I expect there is at least a 40% chance that Tropical Storm Zeta will appear in the Caribbean by the middle of the month.
I'll delay my summary of why the United States suffered so many hurricane strikes the past two years until next week.Figure 1.
Hurricane Epsilon (987 mb, 75 mph winds) at 9:45 am EST December 2, 2005.