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Atlantic hurricane season reaches halfway point without a hurricane

A satellite image of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean on Monday, Sept. 2, showing little disturbance.
A satellite image of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean on Monday, Sept. 2, showing little disturbance.National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Meteorologists predicted an above-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic, but Monday marked the halfway point of the season and not one hurricane has brewed yet.

In May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted a “very active” hurricane season and said they expected between seven and 11 hurricanes. In August, the NOAA lowered the numbers to between six and nine possible hurricanes, but anticipated that three to five of those could become major hurricanes — storms in which winds are above 111 mph.

When the NOAA released its second report, the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, Gerry Bell, Ph.D., said, “Our confidence for an above-normal season is still high because the predicted atmospheric and oceanic conditions that are favorable for storm development have materialized.”

However, Monday was the midpoint of the season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, and the Atlantic has yet to see a hurricane. Is it safe for those on the East Coast to drink their bottled water and eat their canned goods, regardless of predictions?

Dennis Feltgen, a NOAA meteorologist based in Florida, said, “it’s still forecast to be an active season and it still can be.”

Records tracking hurricanes date back to 1851 and since then, “there have been 20 other years where the first hurricane of the season has formed on or after Sept. 3,” Feltgen said.

The last time August passed without a hurricane was in 2002, when the first one formed Sept. 11, he said.  

Feltgen said that regardless of the rarity of making it to Labor Day without a hurricane, “to write off the season would be a huge mistake,” because “we just entered the peak of the season.”

Feltgen said that in 2001, the first hurricane didn’t hit until Sept. 9, but “we ended up with 15 named storms” that year. “And remember, Sandy made landfall on Oct. 29,” he added, referring to the superstorm that cost the Northeast $60 billion in damage and killed more than 100 people there.

A new study published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences suggests that global warming reduced the possibility of the atmospheric currents that caused two storms to converge into Sandy and steered it into the New York region.

Study co-author Adam Sobel told The Associated Press that "Sandy was an extremely unusual storm in several respects and pretty freaky. And some of those things that make it more freaky may happen less in the future." Still, because of rising sea levels, a typical storm from the south could cause even more damage than Sandy did.

“There's nothing to get complacent about coming out of this research," Sobel told the AP.

Feltgen agreed. “We don’t want anyone letting their guard down ... We will have a hurricane, we’ll probably have a number of them,” he said.

Related: Sandy's 'freaky' path may be less likely in future