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Hurricane Researchers: Is The Active Atlantic Hurricane Era At Its End?

Three researchers are wondering: Has the era of active Atlantic hurricanes come to an end?

A study published Monday in the journal Nature Geoscience poses this question in an effort to investigate whether the active hurricane season that began in 1995 may have ended.

Hurricane researcher and lead author Phil Klotzbach suggested that recent cooler water temperatures near Greenland may be a sign of a weaker period for Atlantic hurricanes. 

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"Both 2013 and 2014 were quiet seasons, and with the predicted—and so far observed—below-average 2015 season, it led us to question whether the active Atlantic era had come to an end," the Colorado State University researcher said.

Generally during active phases, warmer water temperatures in the far North Atlantic and tropical Atlantic correlate with lower atmospheric pressures, less vertical wind shear, and higher mid-level moisture values—all conditions that are associated with more active hurricane seasons, the study states.

Another inactive Atlantic hurricane phase could mean fewer major storms making landfall here in South Florida and along the rest of the coast, according to Klotzbach. The last quiet period lasted from 1970 to 1994. 

"When the Atlantic is in its active phase, on average, there are about twice as many major hurricanes along the Florida Peninsula and East Coast as when the Atlantic is in its inactive phase," he said.

Their research didn't show any drop in frequency for major hurricanes along the Gulf Coast and Florida's panhandle, however.

Still, some in the scientific community aren't buying the findings.

"I think they're pretty much wrong about this," MIT meteorology professor Kerry Emanuel told the Associated Press. "That paper is not backed by a lot of evidence."

Others say there may be a flaw in the methodology

However, Klotzbach emphasized the paper makes no claim that the active era has ended.

"We just pose the question that it may be coming to an end. I think it is still too early to state anything definitively about this," he said.

In fact, it's possible to have several-year periods that go opposite of the trend of the longer period, Klotzbach added. For example, 1988 to 1990 were reasonably active seasons during the quiet period from 1970 to 1994.

Still, it should be noted that quiet periods aren't devoid of major hurricanes. Hurricane Andrew, for instance, made landfall in Miami as a Category 5 storm in 1992.

(Image via Flickr/NASA Goddard Space Flight Center​)

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