The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season has actually been off to an active start despite a near to below average season forecast for the basin. If you may recall, NOAA, or the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, is calling for 10-16 named storms while the Colorado State University anticipates 11 named storms this year.
There have already been three named storms, including Subtropical Storm Alberto which made landfall on the Florida Panhandle during the Memorial Day Weekend. There was also a small yet robust tropical wave that traveled from Africa and eventually developed into the first hurricane of the season several hundred miles east of the Caribbean islands, making it only the third hurricane in the tropical Atlantic (<20°N, 60-20°W) before August 1st. This storm took on the name, Beryl, but thankfully the cyclone rapidly weakened and degenerated back into a trough of low pressure before passing through the Lesser Antilles this past weekend. While Beryl weekend, Chris formed just over a hundred miles off the East Coast of the United States near the Outer Banks. By Tuesday afternoon, the National Hurricane Center declared the storm a hurricane, making it the second of the season.
This time of the year, these tropical cyclones often formed close to home either over the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, or southwestern Atlantic Ocean. Chris formed to the north of where storms typically form in early-July, and it was even more unusual for the storm to have intensified into a hurricane, a very photogenic, organized one at that.
The below satellite image captured Tuesday afternoon by GOES-16 using the geocolor channel illustrates the stunning structure of Hurricane Chris. At the time this view was transmitted back down to Earth, the storm contained sustained winds of up to 85 mph, a central minimum pressure of 980 millibars, and an eye about 25 miles in diameter. The lessening of the width of the eye feature in addition to the conducive environment for further cyclone strengthening allowed this storm to undergo rapid intensification and become a hurricane. In fact, water temperatures are record warm just to the west of the center of Chris. A buoy installed in 2004 at a pier in Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina recently measured an all-time record warm water temperature of 89 degrees — and it’s only July.
According to Philip Klotzbach, a tropical meteorologist at the Colorado State University, Chris has broken several records. That includes it tying the record for strongest tropical cyclone with the name, Chris. The other ‘Chris’ involved in this record was the most recent storm in 2012 when winds peaked at 85 mph. Prior to 2018, this name has been used 6 other times, Klotzbach notes.
Klotzback also tweeted, “This is the 4th time in satellite era (since 1966) that Atlantic has had 2 hurricanes by July 10. Other years were 1966, 1968 and 2005.” That may sound impressive and it surely is, but he then explains how there is no correlation between an active start to hurricane season and how the rest of the season will progress. While 2005 had 2 hurricanes by this point in time and ended up being the most active hurricane season on record in the Atlantic, the season of 1968 was very quiet. 2018 may follow suit of becoming less active. Chris is the third named storm of the season, which typically happens over a month from now (August 13th). In terms of hurricanes, the second one forms on August 28th, on average.
#Chris is now a #hurricane – the 2nd of the 2018 Atlantic season. This is the 4th time in satellite era (since 1966) that Atlantic has had 2 hurricanes by July 10. Other years were 1966, 1968 and 2005. pic.twitter.com/W8Q6lJepbo
— Philip Klotzbach (@philklotzbach) July 10, 2018
With Beryl and Chris both forming in July, the current number of named storms is up to 2 for the month. In a normal year, only one named storm forms in July. The record will likely hold at 5 named storms from 2005.