The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season officially started on June 1st and will run until November 30th .   Based on long-term averages, in an average season about twelve (12) storms are formed out of which six (6) become hurricanes  with three (3) being major hurricanes (with wind 111mph or higher).

Various institutions and scientists have made their predictions which suggests an active season this year.

Institutions Named Storms Hurricanes Major Hurricanes
University of Colorado 14 6 2
Weather Channel 14 7 3
National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) 11-17 5-9 2-4

NOAA gives the following reasons for its near to above normal prediction:
1.  The likelihood of a weak or non-existent El Niño to develop late summer.
2.  Near or above average sea surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean Sea.
3.  Average or weaker than average wind shear in parts of the Atlantic Basin.

  • During strong El Nino events, sea surface temperatures in the Eastern Pacific become warmer than normal, which leads to increased wind shear in parts of the Atlantic. Wind shear hinders the intensification and development of cyclones, so predictions pointing to a weak El Nino increases the chances for more activity.
  • There is a lot of  uncertainty however, in the climate model prediction of El Nino. Whether El Nino evolves or not, there will be some influence since  it is one of the important drivers of our climate.

The questions are how much of an impact are these factors either individually or collectively going to have on the formation of storms during the 2017 Tropical Hurricane Season? Or whether other factors such as Saharan dust will have any influence on this seasons cyclone development as it did in 2013?
In the past there have been El Nino years that produced damaging storms.  During the strong El Nino of 1997/98 Hurricane Georges ripped through the Leeward Island with 150mph winds, during the moderate El Nino of 2009/10 Hurricane Tomas devastated St. Lucia and during a weak El Nino of 2004/05 Ivan crushed Grenada.
It should be noted that these seasonal forecasts have little operational value. This means that no matter how many tropical cyclones are forecast to develop, there is no way to predict so many weeks or months in advance where a certain tropical cyclone is going to develop and what areas, if any, will be affected.
Remember, that it takes only one major hurricane to make landfall  on our island to make it an active season for us.  We must also be cognizant it doesn’t have to be a storm or a hurricane, an active tropical wave or just 2 to 3 hours of heavy rainfall can have devastating impacts on our lives.
The message therefore is that we need to inform ourselves of what is happening in other to make timely decisions that will protect life and property.
The Meteorological Department St. Maarten (MDS) will monitor the development of any tropical disturbance closely and will issue watches or warnings when it  becomes necessary.

The Names for the storms for 2017 are:

Arlene                                Harvey                                 Ophelia    

Bret                                     Irma                                     Philippe  

Cindy                                   Jose                                     Rina         

Don                                     Katia                                    Sean

Emily                                   Lee                                       Tammy

Franklin                              Maria                                   Vince

Gert                                     Nate                                     Whitney

2016 Storm Summary