JACKSONVILLE, Fla. –
Another hurricane season has come and gone and yet again, for the 10th year in a row, Florida has dodged a direct hit from a hurricane.
The 2015 Atlantic hurricane season had 11 named storms, 4 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes. Many of those stayed out to sea or fell apart before reaching the U.S. mainland.
The scientists over at Colorado State University, known for their annual forecasts for the number of named storms expected to form in the Atlantic, accurately forecast a quieter than average season.
Back on June 1st, the first official day of the season, they [CSU] predicted 8 named storms, 3 hurricanes and 1 major. They only missed the actual number of storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes by 3, 1 and 1 respectively.
The driving factor behind the quiet season? El Nino.
El Nino is the warming of Pacific waters off the west coast of South America. The increase in ocean temperatures shifts the thermohaline circulation creating different weather patterns that affect the entire globe.
One of the byproducts of El Nino is strong wind shear that is generated over the Atlantic that decapitates storms before they have a chance to develop.
While El Nino would indicate a strong probability of a quiet season, it's not fool proof. Even in El Nino years or quiet years, we've seen catastrophic hurricane impacts including Andrew in 1992.
What's more remarkable is that the United States hasn't been hit by a major hurricane in over 10 years and Florida hasn't been hit by any hurricane, in the same time period.
According to Dr. Phil Klotzbach, lead author of seasonal forecasts, the return time on seeing another 10-plus year stretch without a major hurricane strike on the US is 240 years. That means we as a country would not likely see a 10 year hurricane drought again for another 240 years. That's how exceptionally rare the current pattern we're in is.
Last time such a drought might of happened? The United States wasn't even a country yet. The American Revolution had just kicked off and the largest city in the colonies was Philadelphia with a population of 40,000.
It gets better still.
Since 2009, the gulf coast, including the Florida panhandle has only been hit by one hurricane. The last time the gulf coast has been nearly hurricane free for this length of time was between 1902 and 1908 -- which there were two during that time period. See Dr. Klotzbach's graph taken from his twitter.
While it's too soon to determine how the 2016 season will be, indications are that El Nino will be weakening and transitioning to a neutral pattern (ENSO-Neutral) by the Summer of 2016. Based on that alone, scientists are anticipating a more hyper-active season with more named storms that we observed in 2015.
So while we've dodged another hurricane season, it only stands to reason that the clock is ticking and that one day, possibly as soon as next season, Florida will again be walloped by a major hurricane that will inflict billions of dollars in damage. It's not if, but when.
Welcome to Florida.