June is not historically known for producing lots of tropical storms and hurricanes, let alone big hurricanes. There have been a few notable tropical systems to have emerged in the Atlantic during the opening month of the season. For instance, Hurricane Audrey, which blossomed rapidly in the Gulf of Mexico, and became a Category Four Hurricane as it raced toward landfall in Texas and Louisiana back in 1957. Then, there was also Hurricane Agnes, which originally came ashore near Appalachicola in June, 1972 as a Category One Hurricane, became famous for being a major rainmaker much farther inland over Pennsylvania and New York.
Then, there was Tropical Storm Allison in June, 2001. Allison, which was a very minimal tropical storm, became the most costliest such storm on record causing some $4.5 billion dollars in damage to parts of the Houston area with torrential rainfall over a period of several days. However, when it comes to tropical formation, the month of June on average over the last 154 years has been very rare. Over the last ten years though, activity in the month of June has picked up along with the overall trend. While the average over the past 150 years or so has been one named storm every two years or so, the average over the last ten is close to if not one per year.
However, the year 2005 has seen even higher activity. During the second week of the season, Tropical Storm Arlene formed in the Western Caribbean, and almost became a full fledged hurricane before weakening prior to landfall near Pensacola Beach. Some two weeks later, Tropical Storm Bret emerged from a vast, but somewhat disorganized area of clouds and showers in the Gulf of Mexico's Bay of Campeche region, and made landfall near Tuxpan, Mexico on Wednesday morning, June 29th. As we enter July, the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season is already off to a fast start with only the 13th June on record since 1851 where there was more than one named storm.
So, what does this mean? Is there any reason to worry at all? Well, not necessarily. Over the past six or seven years including the 2004 season, we have seen the tropics start out very quietly with little or no activity over the months of June and July. Then, suddenly, in August, things bubble up as expected accordingly to climatology. Then, there are seasons when you have fast starts in June and July like 1997, and then the bottom drops out because of either the development of an El Nino episode, or Madden-Julian Oscillation. Folks along the Eastern coast of the United States should be ready for an active year as forecasted.
Well, although things we quite active for the month of June in 2005, nothing out of the ordinary occurred in terms of where the storms originated. Both systems, Arlene and Bret, were tropical storms with Arlene being the strongest with 70 mph winds at its peak while Bret, which didn't last very long, was only a minimal system with 40 mph winds. However, in terms of climatology for the month of June, each storm formed where tropical storms and hurricanes usually develop in a Hurricane Season's infancy. The primary areas for tropical formation during the month of June are usually the Gulf of Mexico, particularly, the Bay of Campeche, and the Western Caribbean.
These areas are prime development areas during the month of June because the sea surface temperatures are at the right levels for formation. You need to have water temperatures of at least 80 degrees or higher so heat energy can be provided to the emerging system. Due to the fact that the sun's perpendicular ray approaches, or is exactly at the Tropic of Cancer during this month (the beginning of summer), the summer weather comes early to land areas in these regions, and even the lag between land and sea temperatures doesn't prevent these areas from having warm seas.
Couple that with the fact that upper level conditions in these areas is usually the most favorable since they are usually far enough south to avoid the influence of any troughs coming out of the Rockies in the United States and Northern Mexico. As a result, the stage is set for possible formation in these areas during the month of June and July. You will even find conducive conditions during the months of October, Novemember, and December well after the Cape Verde season has passed, and the overall season has come to an end.
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As was mentioned at the top, activity during the month of June is fairly sporadic. Since 1851, tropical storms and hurricanes usually form once every two years during the opening month of the season. And, very rarely do you get a major hurricane. However, over the last ten years, there has been a storm just about every year including Allison (1995), Arthur (1996), Ana (1997), Arlene (1999), Allison (2001), Bill (2003), and Arlene (2005).
But, the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season has seen a month of June that is very rare, and puts it in special company. Prior to this season, only twelve other seasons over the last 154 years have had a June, where there was more than one named storm. The last such season was in 1986 when Tropical Storm Andrew and Hurricane Bonnie both formed in the same opening month of the season. Comparing this month's activity to the average formation trends of the past ten years, and overall 154 year average, it has been two to four times more active.
Despite how rare the increased activity was, one thing still remained the same, there were no hurricanes or major hurricane during the month. With the rare start of June, the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season is now off to a very fast start. Knowing that the forecast for this hurricane season is supposed to be above normal. Should this be reason to worry.
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In the least, the active start to the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season should get people really motivated to be prepared if they haven't started doing so already. While a quick start to June doesn't necessarily mean a very active season the rest of the way, it definitely isn't a good omen, especially when the overall climate pattern is expected to be normal, and tropical activity is anticipated to be as active as it has been the past two seasons. Nevertheless, folks from Maine to Texas should be ready for a wild one, and most importantly have a plan on what to do, and what to have in case one happens to come their way.
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