“Nobody’s complaining,” said former National Hurricane Center director Max Mayfield.
Bell and NOAA last month forecast a 70 percent chance of a busier-than-normal hurricane season, with six to nine hurricanes and 13 to 19 named storms. Bell said he is sticking with that forecast because it was just an unusually slow August, adding: “There’s going to be more hurricanes; that’s just a fact.”
People shouldn’t let their guard down because several past seasons have started off slow and ended quite busy and deadly — 1967, 1984, 1988, 1994 and 2002, said Ryan Maue, a meteorologist with the private firm Weather Bell. Hurricane season starts in June and runs through the end of November.
“All it takes is one bad hurricane to ruin an otherwise quiet hurricane season,” said Weather Underground meteorology director Jeff Masters, a former hurricane hunter. “Recall that last year’s worst storm — Hurricane Sandy — didn’t occur until the third week of October.”
In the nation’s heartland this year, tornadoes are flirting with a record for the fewest, with just a bit more than half the normal number of nearly 1,300 twisters reported by mid-September. A shift in the jet stream is credited.
While the West has seen heat waves and major wildfires, the summer heat overall hasn’t been nearly as oppressive and extensive as last year’s record-setter. Last year, weather stations around the U.S. set more than 59,000 heat-related records through Sept. 9. This year they have set 21,254.
In 2011, the U.S. had 14 weather disasters that cost at least $1 billion. Last year it was 11. While NOAA hasn’t counted them yet this year, the number is far lower, but includes two terrible Oklahoma tornadoes, meteorologists said.
National Weather Service Director Louis Uccellini said climate change tends to push the world toward more extreme weather, but sometimes natural variability pulls the weather more back to normal, and this is one of those years for much of the U.S. However, China, Japan and Korea have had many extremes, especially heat waves, Masters said.
And Uccellini has one big warning: “This year is not over yet.”