Danny’s Development and Erika’s Emergence Sparks Atlantic Basin out of August Doldrums

Up until about a week ago, the 2015 Atlantic Hurricane Season had many similarities to the 1997 season.  Back then, the world’s climate was in the midst of the strongest El Nino on record, and the Atlantic Basin was feeling the impact.  After a decent start to the 1997 season that had four named storms by the end of July including hurricanes Bill and Danny, the season had an unexpected calm during a time when the season was supposed to be peaking.

In a rare occurrence, the Atlantic Basin had no named storms or hurricanes for the entire month of August 1997.  By contrast, the Eastern Pacific was pumping out storms left and right, and many of them including hurricanes Guillermo, Ignacio, Jimena, Linda, Nora, and Rick.  Guillermo and Linda grew to be very powerful and even threatened to impact Southern California, a region that has not been affected by a tropical cyclone since 1939.  In the end, the Eastern Pacific ended up with 19 depressions, 17 named storms, and 9 hurricanes.

By contrast, the Atlantic in 1997 was very tranquil with only 9 depressions, 8 named storms including an unnamed subtropical storm, 3 hurricanes, and one major hurricane, which ironically was named Erika.  A similar thing has happened this year.  The Atlantic got off to a pretty fast start with a rare mid-May named storm, and three named systems over the first two months of the season.  Once again though, the basin grew quiet as we moved into and through the month of August.  For the first 18 days of the month, there were no depressions or named storms let alone hurricanes.

Then came Danny, which became the strongest storm to date in the Atlantic.  Forming on August 18th, Danny, which is the only hurricane in the Atlantic so far in 2015, grew to become the first major hurricane of the season in the Central Atlantic with sustained winds estimated to be up to 115 miles per hour. The storm peaked in intensity within 72 hours of first becoming a tropical system.  Fortunately, for not only residents of the coastal United States, but also the Lesser Antilles, Danny, a classic Cape Verde system, began to feel the affects of dry air in the Atlantic, and dissipated into a trough of low pressure west of Guadeloupe.

In Danny’s wake came another system from the Eastern and Central Atlantic.  Erika, which has still caused quite a bit of damage in the Leeward Islands with heavy rains, especially on the island of Dominica, first developed within 12 hours of Danny’s demise.  While the Atlantic’s fifth named storm of the year has been erratic and difficult to forecast, it has managed to survive to this point thanks to more moisture in the tropics.  The problems that Erika has been dealing with include wind shear, a rapidly moving circulation, and now, the mountainous terrain of Hispaniola.  The storm is a fledgling system with only 50 miles per hour, and the odds of it becoming a hurricane or a major hurricane are falling.

Regardless of the struggles of these two storms, their development reminds us all that we are entering the peak season in the Atlantic.  The statistical peak is still two weeks off on Thursday, September 10th.  Activity in Africa as well as the Eastern and Central Atlantic have started to fire up as demonstrated by the development of these two storms.  With Erika lurking in the Caribbean, residents in Florida are under a State of Emergency, and others in nearby coastal states such as Alabama, Georgia, and South Carolina have to closely monitor the progress of this storm.  The 2015 season may end up being below average, but things have begun to heat up, and most importantly, all it takes is one storm, and people must be always prepared for that.