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2013 Atlantic hurricane ends with record low activity. Could it mean more snow?

Tied for the least active overall season with 1982.
Tied for the least active overall season with 1982.

The last day of November marks the end of tropical season in the Atlantic basin, but some may ask if it ever really got started. The first storm was named five days into the season, which had many believe the very active forecast from NOAA and other outlets was on track. That did not verify. In fact Tropical Storm Erin is one that barely reached 40 mph in its life span, questioning whether it belonged on the list in the first place.

As we have seen with many other seasons, an early start does not foretell how the rest will go. Just look at the October snowstorm of 2011 which was followed by one of the least snowy winters on record in the Mid Atlantic. Also look at the tornadoes of March 2012 which led to a near record low severe weather season in the US. This year actually was even less active.

The 2013 tropical season tied a record in the Atlantic for fewest hurricanes. Only two storms reached hurricane intensity, and barely Category 1. The only other time this has happened was in 1982. If you are looking for a comparison, that following winter did drop 35 inches of snow on Baltimore, which was 75% above the normal 20 inches. That might be a stretch, but a bone tossed to fellow snow lovers. It might not be that far off if the global teleconnections are the same. It could lead us to reevaluate the overall relationship.

Compared to the 30 year average (Normal):

Named Tropical Storms

  • Normal: 12
  • 2013: 13


  • Normal: 6-7
  • 2013: 2

Major Hurricanes (Category 3 or higher)

  • Normal: 2
  • 2013: 0

Compared to the NOAA Forecast:

Named Tropical Storms

  • NOAA: 12-18
  • 2013: 13


  • NOAA: 6-20
  • 2013: 2

Major Hurricanes (Category 3 with 111 mph winds or higher)

  • NOAA: 3-6
  • 2013: 0

Low storm seasons more common than you might expect

This season is least active measured on total days with tropical activity and the intensity each storm has reached. There have been recent years with less named storms, but more total energy. Even though this year brought one of the strongest storms on record in the Pacific with Super Typhoon Haiyan, that energy did not translate around the globe. Also, despite the added attention since 2005 and Katrina, we have had quite a few boring years. There have been 3 seasons with less than 9 named storms in the past two decades. 1997, 2006, and 2009.

Why was this year so low?

The main culprit appears to be dry air from Africa, called the Saharan Air Layer or SAL. This can contain dust from the desert that lays a thin blanket on the ocean surface, further inhibiting evaporation and storm development. Other factors would quickly point to the fading La Nina in the Pacific and potentially developing El Nino. An El Nino is known as a tropical killing since it can increase upper level winds in the Atlantic and chop off the tops of storms before they can fully develop. But that was not the case. Ironically the NOAA update in early August still called for the season to be very active. They must chalk it up to just a bad forecast. Been there. Done that.

If it helps, NOAA’s outlook for this winter did initially have it warm with little snow in the Mid Atlantic. That has since been revised to a 50% chance of anything happening. Basically there is no indication from NOAA what we could expect this season, but if history repeats itself, perhaps the same factors present in 1982 might reproduce and active winter this year.

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By the numbers:


June 5-8

Top Winds: 65 mph


June 17-20

Top Winds: 45 mph


July 7-10

Top Winds: 65 mph


July 24-August 3

Top Winds 60 mph


August 14-18

Top Winds 40 mph


August 25-26

Top Winds 50 mph


September 4-13

Top Winds 60 mph

Humberto- Hurricane

September 8-19

Top Winds 85 mph

Ingrid- Hurricane

September 12-17

Top Winds 85 mph


September 28-October 3

Top Winds 50 mph


October 3-6

Top Winds 65 mph


October 21-24

Top Winds 50 mph


November 18-21

Top Winds 65 mph

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