Does our Atlantic hurricane season start too late?

With Tropical Storm Arthur becoming the seventh storm in six years to form before June 1, some experts think we should start hurricane season earlier.

News 12 Staff

May 18, 2020, 3:41 PM

Updated 1,519 days ago

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Does our Atlantic hurricane season start too late?
Tropical Storm Arthur has formed in the Atlantic basin, making 2020 the sixth consecutive year in which a tropical system has received a name before the official start of hurricane season.
Fortunately, the forecast path has taken a favorable turn over the last 36 hours. It is now expected to graze the Outer Banks of North Carolina before making a sharp turn out to sea. It still could impact Bermuda as a tropical depression later this week.
This may seem like a trivial and arbitrary proposition, but consider that many people are not prepared to an adequate level during the hurricane off-season, and really only begin to ramp up reinforcements as we enter the summer months.
It is true that most of the storms listed above have been on the weaker side, and almost all spawning and dissipating out in the middle of the ocean. However, Tropical Storm Alberto was a deadly exception. It brushed the western side of Cuba before making landfall on the Florida Panhandle, killing 18 people in all. This included a news anchor and photojournalist in South Carolina, after a tree fell onto their vehicle.
Some experts have proposed a May 15 start date to account for many of these early outliers. National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said the possibility is being discussed, though nothing formal has been proposed. While the frequency of May named storms over the past decade or so has raised eyebrows, Feltgen also noted the lack of similar activity in the preceding 30 years, and that there are "potential advantages and disadvantages of changing the official start date."
Feelings remain mixed outside of the NHC as well, but it seems like the overall feeling is "keep it the same.... for now."
While University of Miami tropical expert Brian McNoldy is taking note of the current trends, he doesn't think changing the season is necessary. 
"I don't think there is a need to adjust the bounds of the official season. While there has been a flurry of 'pre-season' tropical storms and subtropical storms over the past six years, I don't think it warrants moving anything. Over the past 50 years, 14 began before June 1. However, only once did a hurricane form before 'hurricane season', and that was in 1970*. The subjective bounds of hurricane season were never intended to capture all of the tropical cyclone activity. Having some outliers is fine.
*He considers Alex in January 2016 to be a spillover from the 2015 hurricane season.
Colorado State tropical meteorology research scientist Phil Klotzbach agrees. He states that in addition to the brevity and relative weakness of these early season storms, not once has a hurricane hit the United States before June 1. He also refutes any notion that an early start to the season is directly tied to a more active season.
Texas State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon is more split down the middle. With much of the Atlantic warming up due to climate change, it only makes sense in his mind that favorable conditions for tropical systems would exist a few weeks earlier. But even with giving people a reason to prepare earlier, he questions the overall effectiveness of moving up the start date.
"The only thing that matters really is it tends to kick off people paying attention to hurricanes. That may be somewhat less relevant, since we’ve gotten saturated with weather forecaster information... I could understand not wanting to do it because you’d suddenly get all these existential political arguments about oh they’re just doing that because of climate change or something.”
It will be very interesting to see if this trend of early storms continues in the coming year. It could wind up swaying the opinions of many in the weather community.


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