Officially, the hurricane season ends Saturday, but it will end up being one for the record books in ways that some of the best minds in meteorology had not envisioned.
For the U.S. Atlantic and Gulf Coasts it was a fantastically uneventful season. For the long-range forecasts, it was a brutal one.
In terms of hurricanes, “It was one of the most significant forecast busts that we’ve ever had,” said Philip Klotzbach a prodigy of Colorado State University hurricane-forecast legend Bill Gray.
Gray and Klotzbach had called for 16 named storms in the Atlantic Basin, with winds of at least 39 m.p.h., with nine of them gaining hurricane strength, with winds of 74 m.p.h. or better, and four becoming major, packing peak winds of 111 m.p.h. or more.
The outlooks issued by AccuWeather Inc., WSI Corp., and the government were similar.
The final scores – 13 named storms, only two hurricanes, and 0 majors – constituted an extraordinary outcome.
The hurricane numbers marked the fewest in 31 years, and this was the first year since 1994 without a major hurricane in the basin, which includes the Caribbean and the Gulf.
No major hurricane has made landfall in the United States in eight seasons, and none of any strength have hit Florida in that time – both records – according to Dennis Feltgen at the National Hurricane Center.
So what happened?
Klotzbach said the “primary culprit” was “anomalously dry air and sinking motion associated with significant Saharan dust outbreaks that penetrated quite far" into the hurricane spawning grounds.
The dust veils might have cooled the hurricane-brewing waters.
A footnote Bill Gray began issuing his long-term outlooks 30 years ago, and his methods have been copied elsewhere.
But he and Klotzbach say they are having a funding crisis and it’s possible that they’ll be getting out of the business.
We’ll keep you apprised.