LIHUE — No hurricanes have appeared in the Central Pacific Ocean so far this season, even though forecasters predicted eight in May.
Meanwhile, the United States’ East Coast has been hammered with hurricanes.
And it all has to do with El Niño — or lack thereof, according to National Weather Service meteorologist Derek Wroe.
“El Niño suppresses (storm) development in the Atlantic, so certainly the lack of El Niño means you tend to get more activity,” Wroe said.
Pre-season predictions were that the North Central Pacific would experience weak El Niño, which would have meant an increase in tropical cyclone activity.
With that potential in mind, forecasters predicted up to eight tropical storms for the season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.
“That El Niño turned out not to be the case,” Wroe said, “and so far this season there haven’t been any hurricanes.”
The East Pacific currently has two tropical storms: Norma and Otis.
An average hurricane season prediction is four to five tropical cyclones for the Central Pacific, according to NWS. The May outlook predicted a 40 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 20 percent chance of a below- normal season.
The outlook reflects the possible transition to weak El Niño during the hurricane season, along with a prediction for near or above-average ocean temperatures in the main hurricane forming region, and a near or weaker-than-average vertical wind in the same area, said Gerry Bell, NOAA’s lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center.
In 2016, forecasters predicted seven tropical cyclones for the season, and six appeared, which is slightly above the seasonal average. Hurricane Pali occurred in January 2016, bringing the total to seven storms in the calendar year.
In 2015, NOAA recorded 16 tropical cyclones, which broke the 30-year record. The second most active year for tropical storms was in 1994 when 11 storms blew through the Central Pacific. In 2014 there were five.
The Pacific’s calm coincided with reflections on the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Iniki, and residents’ feelings toward tropical storms are just as mixed.
“It’s something to always be prepared for,” said Mary Martha Hull of Wainiha. “But I’m not worried about one right now.”
Chaunde Cockett of Lihue always has an emergency kit at her house in case of a hurricane, because she remembers the havoc after Hurricane Iniki.
“I was 6 and I remember I had to help tape shut the glass windows,” she said. “Even though it’s been more than 20 years, it’s important to be prepared.”