Dare I say it? (TS #Melissa in the Atlantic...) UPDATED


The depression has spun up to form a tropical storm. It will probaqbly remain a storm as it works its way up the Atlantic Ocean avoiding land (though it seems to be aimed ultimately at Greenland). The storm is named Melissa.

Details here.


We have had a record breakingly anemic hurricane season in the North Atlantic this year. How anemic? If this year's hurricane season was a rug, you'd have a floor. If this year's hurricane season was a car you'd have a bicycle. If this year's hurricane season was a stack of pancakes, you'd have one pancake. That's now anemic.

What is the reason for this poor performance? First, let me point out that expectations were not that high to begin with. The most useful and heretofore accurate model for hurricane frequency had suggested a number of named storms that is pretty close to the actual number that occurred (though higher). Hurricane number varies a lot from year to year in all of the different ocean basins, because hurricanes are rare events to begin with. In fact, I'd even say they are unlikely events because so many things have to be in place for a hurricane (or typhoon as they are called in the western Pacific) to form. Conditions are often enough in place that since 1980 the North Atlantic has had over 400 of them. But during the same period, the United States has had about 3,700 tornadoes. Tornadoes, which are not that common (have you ever actually been in one? Probably not) are an order of magnitude more common than hurricanes. Hurricanes, being much larger than tornadoes, of course, can be much more significant.

Anyway, there have been very few tropical storms in the Atlantic Basin named this year, the few that have achieved a notable status have been quirky, short lived, and stayed at sea. It is almost like all the Hurricane Gremlins went out to the Pacific to work on Haiyan/Yolanda, which was a masterpiece of a storm, being one of the strongest ever and causing immense damage and tragically huge loss of life.

One of the most likely reasons for the poor performance of the Atlantic season this year is said to be the huge injection of Saharan dust into the atmosphere over the equatorial Atlantic ocean early in the season. It might also be vertical wind sheer, which is said to be more common in this basin due to global warming. No matter what, it may take a few more years before we can start to see the magnitude of overall increase in either frequency of tropical storms or intensity of tropical storms that is almost certainly one of the outcomes of climate change.

And now, after many days of virtual inactivity, the North Atlantic has produced an area of disturbance that has a small chance of growing into a tropical storm. It is a non-tropical low pressure system, sitting almost motionless in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Conditions to convert this system into a tropical proto-storm may develop and over the next two or three days there is somewhat less than a 1 in 3 chance that it will become a cyclone. It will be very interesting to see if it becomes tropical before it becomes a cyclone, or not. (Tropical and non-tropical cyclones are different.)

The NWS is tracking it, and here is the latest update.

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By Mary Arneson (not verified) on 17 Nov 2013 #permalink