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Breakdown: Why tropical tracks shift in October

Published: Oct. 13, 2021 at 11:50 AM CDT|Updated: Oct. 13, 2021 at 2:56 PM CDT
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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (WMC) - We are past the peak of hurricane season which was mid-September but we are not out of the woods yet. In fact, for some places like Florida, October can be active because hurricane tracks shift making the west coast of Florida, Caribbean and east coast more vulnerable. That’s not to say that tropical tracks won’t still occur along other parts of the coast but conditions aren’t as favorable.

The reason for the shift in tropical tracks and somewhat in activity in October is because the water temperatures in parts of the Atlantic Ocean start to cool off. Wind shear increases which is the change of wind speed and or direction with height increases over the central and eastern Atlantic. Wind shear can tear apart a system before it even develops.

In the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean water temperatures are still warm, while wind shear remains low. In addition the storms that we see early to mid season that form off the African coast due to the easterly waves begins to phase out in October.

Not all but majority of the tropical tracks develop in the Caribbean Sea or Gulf of Mexico and track north and then northeastward. This shift can mean more storms tracking near the Florida peninsula, Caribbean and off the east coast.

NOAA hurricane tracks for October
NOAA hurricane tracks for October(NOAA)

It has been an active season thus far and October typically brings a second peak to hurricane season before activity starts to decrease significantly in November.

In 2019, there were 7 storms in October and two main landfall in the US. They were Nestor and Olga. Olga made landfall along the Louisiana coast as a tropical storm and Nestor made landfall as a tropical storm along the Florida panhandle. This shows that while tracks do shift, there are tropical systems that can still track in areas outside of where they usually track in October.

There were 5 storms that formed in October in the 2020 season and three of which made landfall in the US. which were Hurricanes Delta, Eta and Zeta.

Hurricane Delta made landfall as a category 2 near Creole, Louisiana Hurricane Zeta made landfall on Oct 28 as a category 3 Cocodrie, Louisiana. Eta made landfall as a Tropical Storm and made two landfalls in Florida. While it formed in October it made landfall in November 7 in the Florida Keys and made a second landfall November 12, north of Tampa.

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