The 1900 Storm and Hurricane Ike in 2008 both formed hundreds of miles away near the Cape Verde islands of West Africa. Traveling more than 4,000 miles, the storms gathered momentum before pounding the Texas coast.
Hurricanes that form in the deep tropics are often some of the hardest-hitting Atlantic storms, but the western coast of Africa is not the only place such storms threatening the Gulf Coast brew, according to research compiled by the National Hurricane Center.
The potentially deadly and violent storms, which we know as hurricanes, form in the warm waters near the equator. In other parts of the world, hurricanes may be called cyclones or typhoons.
For this season, which begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30, climatologists forecast “an average activity” season, with 12 “named storms” and six hurricanes, according to a Colorado State University extended forecast for this Atlantic hurricane season. Hurricane Alex formed near the Bahamas in January. It was the first Atlantic hurricane in that month since 1955.
The forecast for the season is determined by several factors, said Josh Lichter, a meteorologist for the National Weather Service in League City. The temperature of the ocean, winds in the upper part of the atmosphere over the Atlantic and sea level pressures, among other things, he said.
The warm and moist air near the surface of the water rises and creates lower air pressure near the surface, according to NASA. Other air from surrounding areas moves into the low pressure area. That air begins warm and rising, as well, and the process continues, NASA research said. The water in the air forms clouds. The ocean’s heat and water evaporating from the surface cause the system of clouds and wind to move faster, according to NASA.
When the storm reaches winds of at least 74 mph, it becomes a hurricane.
Warmer temperatures in the ocean and weaker winds in the upper parts of the atmosphere lead to more active seasons, Lichter said.
Last season, El Nino, a weather phenomena that causes warmer temperatures and produces more rain, was happening at the same time. El Nino causes a less active hurricane season because the winds are higher, Lichter said.
“With El Nino weakening, those winds will begin weakening and we’ll have a better chance of hurricanes as the season progresses,” Lichter said.
Storms that hit this area form in both the Atlantic and the Gulf, Lichter said.
“They can form in the Gulf and can become quite intense,” he said. “It depends on the season whether its more or less common.”