The Atlantic hurricane season officially ends today. Things should now remain calm in the tropics, at least until the 2010 season starts in June.
This season has been a quiet one, with only 6 Tropical Storms: Ana, Claudette, Danny, Erika, Grace and Henri. Only 3 hurricanes formed: Bill (which was by far the strongest topping out at a Category 4 storm), Fred and Ida; although none of these storms made landfall in the United States as hurricanes. The season kicked off with Ana on August 15. Originally a tropical depression that formed in the eastern tropical Atlantic near the Leeward Islands. Ana eventually strengthened enough to become a Tropical Storm with max winds at 40 mph.
Next came the strongest storm of the season: Hurricane Bill. Like Ana, Bill also formed in the eastern Atlantic, but quickly strengthened into a tropical storm. Only a couple of days after forming in mid-August, the storm became a major hurricane at a Category 3 classification on the Saffir Simpson scale. It further strengthened into a Category 4 storm, packing winds of 135 mph. Although it threatened Caribbean islands and the east coast, the storm did not make landfall. This storm did however bring hurricane force winds to Nova Scotia and Newfoundland.
Tropical Storm Claudette formed seemingly out of nowhere in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. Upon its formation, it was the third active tropical system in the Atlantic. Shortly after its formation, it made landfall in the Florida Panhandle with winds near 50 mph.
About a week after Claudette made landfall came Tropical Storm Danny, that formed to the east of the Bahamas. This storm struggled to become a tropical storm. Although Tropical Storm Watches were issued for the North Carolina coast, the storm remained in the Atlantic and died out as it moved north.
September began with Tropical Storm Erika another weak tropical storm that weakened in the Lesser Antilles shortly after its formation. Vertical wind shear, or change in wind speed or direction with height, tore the storm apart as it moved westward.
The second hurricane of the season presented itself with Fred. Fred would eventually become the strongest hurricane on record south of 30 degrees North and east of 35 degrees West as a Category 2 storm. This storm was long-lived, surviving for a week before dissipating on its westward course in the Atlantic.
Tropical Storm Grace was the northernmost forming cyclone in the Atlantic basin on record. The storm quickly got up to 65 mph, but did not survive for long. Cold sea surface temperatures quickly depleted her energy.
Tropical Storm Henri began as a tropical wave off the coast of Africa in early October. It was a weak storm, that did not survive for long, thanks to strong vertical wind shear.
The last storm of the season was also the last hurricane of the season. It first made landfall in Nicaragua with winds of 75 mph, making it a weak Category 1 storm. After landing in Nicaragua, it continued to move north into the Gulf of Mexico, weakening along the way, eventually making landfall along the Gulf coast of Alabama.
The quiet season this year has been attributed to El Nino, which produces strong vertical wind shear in the Gulf. If you're interested in learning more about El Nino, visit kbtx.com/weather. A short clip is available on the right hand side titled "Weather Extra: El Nino."