The tropical season? All year long!

Satellite picture courtesy of NOAA

You probably heard the statistic on Hurricane Nicole being the first hurricane to strike Florida in November in 37 years. In fact, that last particular hurricane, Kate, struck Nov. 21, 1985:

courtesy National Hurricane Center and NOAA
courtesy National Hurricane Center and NOAA

Coming into the Florida Panhandle with 100 mph winds, Kate moved over Mexico Beach, Florida, as, clearly, a late-season hurricane. Such storms are rare because as the fall season progresses, the sun’s angle is lower in the sky (you’ve probably noticed). That angle simply means less solar energy and cooler water. In addition, the polar jet stream starts to dip farther south, sending those cold front across the country, like today’s. The fronts keep storms away from us this time of year, but obviously Florida is still vulnerable being so close to the warmer Caribbean and Bahamas. And the fronts often weaken or lift north before they can be of much protection!

What you might not know is that EVERY month of the year historically has seen a tropical system -- depression, storm or hurricane. Clearly those shoulder months of May and December are most likely for an out-of-season storm, but January to April have had their share ranging from Category 1 Hurricane Alex in January 2016 to a 70 mph Tropical Storm in February 1952 to a Category 2 Hurricane in March 1908! April has recorded several storms over time.

You can see an entire list of off-season tropical systems right here. I counted 96!

So the big question is, give the state of a warming climate, will our hurricane season continue to last longer? Ryan Truchelut, a meteorologist and co-founder of WeatherTiger, a private weather-forecasting group, says in a recent article in Scientific American that it’s hard to tell. Early season May storms indicate “yes” in regard to the front-end of the season, but the back-end just doesn’t have enough data because late season storms are so rare.

The bottom line is always be prepared as the folks in Florida, twice struck this year from Ian and Nicole, are finding out the hard way.

Our front arrives this afternoon -- look for a cold, windy start to the weekend!


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About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with four decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.