The Atlantic hurricane season officially began Friday, although there already has been some tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic this season.
Throughout much of last week, the Southeast dealt with Tropical Storm Beryl. Typical for early season storms, Beryl was not very well organized and did not pose the kind of threat storms can later in the season.
The hurricane season stretches from June 1 to Nov. 30, but early storms like Beryl are not uncommon. In fact, the earliest hurricane ever in the Atlantic was Hurricane Alice, which formed on Dec. 31, 1954, with maximum winds of 80 mph intermittently from Jan. 1-6, 1955.
Statistically, the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season occurs about Sept. 10 with a dramatic increase in the frequency of storms occurring after Aug. 1, followed by a slightly less dramatic decrease through the end of November.
In the early fall, the ocean surface temperatures are as warm as they will be all year (a result of absorbing summer’s heat), and the jet stream is as far north as it will be all year. These two circumstances make it easier for clusters of tropical thunderstorms not only to grow but also to organize first into tropical storms and then, sometimes, into more ferocious hurricanes.
It is interesting to consider the fact Christopher Columbus crossed the tropical Atlantic at the climatological peak of the hurricane season and yet, in 1492 anyway, his particular route luckily was spared an encounter with one of these storms.