In a Busy Week for Hurricane Season, Tropical Storm Kate Forms in the Atlantic

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Forecasters said that Kate, the 11th named storm of the hurricane season, was not likely to strengthen significantly as it moves over the open waters of the central Atlantic Ocean.

Tropical Storm Kate over the Atlantic Ocean on Monday.
Credit...NOAA

Aug. 31, 2021, 4:32 a.m. ET

As residents along the Louisiana coast surveyed the damage left after Hurricane Ida came ashore, and a day after Tropical Storm Julian formed and was quickly downgraded, Tropical Storm Kate formed in the Atlantic Ocean on Monday, becoming the 11th named storm of a busy hurricane season.

The National Hurricane Center said Tropical Storm Kate would move over the open waters of the central Atlantic Ocean. There were no coastal watches or warnings in effect for the storm.

The center said on Monday afternoon that significant strengthening “does not appear likely at this time,” and that models suggested that Kate could be “absorbed by a larger extratropical low expected to form and deepen near Atlantic Canada.”

It’s been a dizzying few weeks for meteorologists who monitored several named storms that formed in quick succession in the Atlantic, bringing stormy weather, flooding and damaging winds to parts of the United States and the Caribbean.

In addition to Ida and Julian, in the last few weeks Tropical Storm Fred made landfall in the Florida Panhandle, Hurricane Grace hit Haiti and Mexico, and Tropical Storm Henri knocked out power and brought record rainfall to the Northeastern United States.

The quick succession of named storms make it might seem as if the Atlantic is spinning them up like a fast-paced conveyor belt, but their formation does coincide with the peak of hurricane season.

The period between August and October is when 78 percent of tropical storms, 87 percent of minor hurricanes and 96 percent of major hurricanes occur, said Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the National Hurricane Center. Maximum activity takes place in early to mid-September, he said.

Robert Henson, an independent meteorologist and a journalist for Yale Climate Connections, said of the remaining time in the season, “I wouldn’t expect every week to be as busy as this past week has been.”

Mr. Henson said the emergence of Kate on Monday was the sixth earliest appearance of a named storm starting with the letter K in the 55 years that satellites have been used. Last year was the earliest, as Kyle formed on Aug. 14, he said.

The warm ocean waters that are common this time of year are fueling the activity in the Atlantic but the storms are also getting a boost from two other influences: the Madden-Julian Oscillation, a cluster of thunderstorms that circle the Equator in a semiregular pattern and help foster storms, and a convectively coupled Kelvin wave, a huge impulse that moves from west to east through the stratosphere.

When these forces overlap, as they are now, it creates conditions that are even more favorable for storms to form, Mr. Henson said.

For as busy as last season was and as busy as this one has been, Mr. Henson noted that there was a 12-year “hurricane drought” from 2005 to 2017 in which not a single major hurricane struck the United States.

Last year, there were 30 named storms, including six major hurricanes. Meteorologists reached the end of the alphabet for the second time and moved to using Greek letters.

It was the most named storms on record, surpassing the 28 from 2005, and the second-highest number of hurricanes on record.

The links between hurricanes and climate change are becoming more apparent. A warming planet can expect stronger hurricanes over time, and a higher incidence of the most powerful storms — though the overall number of storms could drop, because factors like stronger wind shear could keep weaker storms from forming.

Hurricanes are also becoming wetter because of more water vapor in the warmer atmosphere; scientists have suggested storms like Hurricane Harvey in 2017 produced far more rain than they would have without the human effects on climate. Also, rising sea levels are contributing to higher storm surge — the most destructive element of tropical cyclones.

A major United Nations climate report released in August warned that nations have delayed curbing their fossil-fuel emissions for so long that they can no longer stop global warming from intensifying over the next 30 years, leading to more frequent life-threatening heat waves and severe droughts. Tropical cyclones have likely become more intense over the past 40 years, the report said, a shift that cannot be explained by natural variability alone.

Ana became the first named storm of the season on May 23, making this the seventh year in a row that a named storm developed in the Atlantic before the official start of the season on June 1.

In May, scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast that there would be 13 to 20 named storms this year, six to 10 of which would be hurricanes, and three to five major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher in the Atlantic. In early August, in a midseason update to the forecast, they continued to warn that this year’s hurricane season will be an above average one, suggesting a busy end to the season.

Matthew Rosencrans, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that an updated forecast suggested that there would be 15 to 21 named storms, including seven to 10 hurricanes, by the end of the season on Nov. 30. Kate is the 11th named storm of 2021.

Christopher Mele contributed reporting.

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