This isn't normal.
It's getting into the final part of July, and already we've had four named storms in the Atlantic region--and good reason to expect that we may see a fifth before August. Moreover, the types of storms we're seeing are also troubling.
Warming in the Gulf of Mexico, July 20, 2008
In particular, the finally dissipated Hurricane Bertha set all manner of records, most of them associated with longevity and strength so early in the season. That includes becoming the longest lived Atlantic hurricane ever recorded in July, and the third strongest ever recorded in that month (and sixth strongest overall among pre-August hurricanes).
And now we're looking at a likely Hurricane Dolly, which will get the chance to churn over the extremely warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico before making landfall somewhere (presumably) along the Mexico or Texas Gulf coast.
Meanwhile, the National Hurricane Center has just begun to track a strong tropical wave--much like the precursor to Bertha--that is emerging off of the African Coast. The strongest Atlantic hurricanes, dubbed Cape Verde-type storms, generally form from such waves--and generally do so later in the season. But that's not the case in 2008.
Granted, this year isn't starting off quite as busily as 2005--which featured no less than six named storms by the end of July. Still, it could be very close.
As an author who has been on the hurricane beat ever since 2005's unprecedented destruction served as a dramatic wake up call, each year I've watched people predict another devastating season to the U.S. and each year they've been wrong. But each year I've also watched the early season weather itself. And it hasn't ever looked so ominous. The tropics weren't firing like this in early 2006 or early 2007. Not like now.
Most immediately, I suspect that we're all going to be hearing a lot about Dolly for the next few days. This is an intensifying tropical storm currently perched at the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula and about to travel across the very warm western gulf of Mexico towards southern Texas.
It is never, ever good to have a hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico. It is always traumatic; oil prices are already rising on the news.
The National Hurricane Center expects Dolly to intensify over the next few days and become a Category 1 or Category 2 hurricane by landfall, somewhere in the vicinity of the Texas-Mexico border. The storm could be weaker or, my bet, even stronger by then. Indeed, there's a chance of a major hurricane smacking the Texas coast. Given all the warmth in the Gulf, and the fact that Dolly isn't much threatened by wind shear, that's a very real possibility.
So it sounds like you will hear a lot more about Dolly soon. And, I fear, about the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season.
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