Seasonal Outlook based on Atlantic Hurricanes

Thursday, September 14, 2017 at 10:27 am

Pattern change is arriving now with showers likely today into tonight and Friday with much cooler temperatures across the region.  Snowfall is likely in the highest elevations with snow levels dropping down to near 8000 feet by late Friday.  Don’t expect much more than a dusting, but it will still be nice to see!  It looks like we warm up on Sunday into early next week before another trough affects the area mid to late next week.  Details are still hard to come by, but it looks like additional showers and chances for high elevation snow.

Obviously there’s been a lot going on lately on the other side of the country with regard to hurricanes.  I was asked on Twitter recently about active Atlantic hurricane seasons and their correlation to Utah snowfall.  On it’s face, there’s not much correlation at all.  Hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 traditionally.  So there’s not much overlap with our winter season.  However, there are oceanic and atmospheric variables that can affect both, most notably ENSO (El Nino/La Nina).  Still, I didn’t think there would be much correlation.  I decided to take a very unscientific approach, just compare analogs of active Atlantic hurricane seasons and compare to the subsequent seasons using UDOT’s town of Alta snowfall data that dates back to 1945.

The Test:

To determine “active” hurricane seasons, I looked at the averages —  10.9 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes, 2.5 major hurricanes each season.  To meet the criteria of ‘active’, I pull all years in which they exceeded each of those 3 averages.  That left me with 26 hurricane seasons since 1945 that were more active than average on all three metrics.  Then I simply checked to see how the subsequent winters fared at Alta.

The results:

In the 70+ years of data we have for the Alta-Guard station, the seasonal average snowfall is 497″.  In the 26 active hurricane seasons I pulled, the subsequent winters averaged just over 513″ per season.  12 of the seasons were below the 497″ average while 14 were above.  I was surprised at how high the average was, but the numbers of above/below was much more of what I expected.  It seems that a few very big winters pulled the average up significantly.

So far, 2017 hurricane season is more active than normal.  We’ve already at 11 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes.  All of which are already above the seasonal averages. We also have more than 2 months of hurricane season left to go.

What can we take from this? The optimists could say that perhaps we are slightly more likely to have an above average year.  The realists will say that this means pretty much nothing.  I am going to probably side with the latter, but it was fun to just pull some data and have a look.


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5 thoughts on “Seasonal Outlook based on Atlantic Hurricanes

  1. Fred Schoenbrunn

    So based on that data, can you say that a big hurricane season increases the odds of a very big winter?
    Just looking for more ammo to support my natural optimism about snow.

  2. Florida Sam

    Hey WSF

    Starting day 5 with no power here in Florida: I’m doing my part for a good boarding season! I’ll take the power loss to help out with the snow pack coming up!


  3. elpasodave

    How about the correlation between only Pacific storms and Alta snowfall? Atlantic storms pull heat from the Atlantic ocean. Would Pacific storms pull heat from the Pacific reducing the chances of warm winter currents feeding storms that flow across the west? I haven’t been keeping track of what’s happening in the Pacific this year and I’m hoping the lack of “news” about Pacific storms means a nice HOT Pacific ocean that will feed big winter storms. I have a Brighton Go card, the Mountain Collective Pass, a Ski Apache pass, and snow rated tires for my van. I need snowfall.

  4. Nick Highland-Brown

    As a complete nerd myself, I really appreciate your total weather-nerd approach to this stuff. I love this site, keep up the good work.

  5. Faceplant

    I seem to remember a correlation between El Niño and below average Atlantic hurricanes. But I also remember hucking 40 footers and dating supermodels. Friends say neither of those are true so maybe my memory isn’t what it used to be.

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