September 10: The peak of hurricane season

CHARLOTTE, NC (WBTV) - Today, September 10th, marks the peak of hurricane season.  So far, it's been a busy year with 13 named storms, and the National Hurricane Center is monitoring another area of interest in the Eastern Atlantic.

Of those 13 storms, 7 have been hurricanes, and Michael briefly became a major hurricane, with winds up to 115 mph.  Thankfully, the still churning storm is expected to remain at sea.  

Although not the strongest, the most damaging storm was Isaac.  The Category 1 hurricane made landfall near the mouth of the Mississippi River and caused significant flooding in Louisiana and Mississippi and impacted areas as far north as Missouri.

Does that mean we can expect the second half of the season to be as bad?  The number of storms we have seen so far are only 2 fewer than we had seen at this point in the 2005 hurricane season that produced Katrina and Wilma, the strongest storm ever recorded in the Atlantic basin.

Probably not.  NOAA's Climate Prediction Center says that El Nino conditions are expected to develop in the Equatorial Pacific within the next few weeks.

During El Nino episodes, vertical wind shear typically increases in the Atlantic basin.  That wind shear, or change in wind direction as you move higher in the atmosphere, could rip a developing storm apart in its early stages, preventing many systems that would become tropical storms or hurricanes from forming.

While chances of storms developing and impacting the Carolinas will be smaller, they will not be zero.  We could still be impacted by a tropical system.

As another result of El Nino, the Carolinas can also expect above normal precipitation this winter.  "El Nino forces the jet stream to be more amplified over the SE US." says North Carolina State Climatologist Dr. Ryan Boyles.  This means that we will likely see more storm systems move through this winter, bringing a wetter winter to the area.