Hurricane Beryl Is a Grim Warning of What's to Come: An Intense Hurricane Season

The high ocean temperatures are likely contributing to the severity of this initial hurricane.

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Pablo Martínez-Juarez

Hurricane Beryl is a thing of the past, or almost, as experts classify the remaining cyclone as a post-tropical storm. At this stage, the “former” hurricane is moving north through the Midwest.

The remnants of Beryl. The post-tropical storm Beryl is currently moving across the state of Indiana after traveling from south to north across much of the country. To be precise, the storm is now moving in a northwesterly direction at a speed of about 20 mph.

Beryl last made landfall on the Texas coast and has been weakening since then as it moved across the U.S. However, according to the latest reports from the National Hurricane Center (NHC), the storm is still producing sustained winds of about 30 mph.

Additionally, the NHC is warning of heavy rainfall and potential flooding in states bordering Canada. It’s also cautioning about the possibility of tornadoes in the Ohio Valley.

Devastation along its path. Hurricane Beryl has caused significant devastation, with at least 18 people confirmed dead. Ten fatalities occurred in different Caribbean islands, while another eight were reported in the U.S. The hurricane also caused extensive material damage, rendering many homes and infrastructure unusable in its wake.

Unprecedented. Hurricane Beryl has been unique in several ways. Towards the end of June, experts originally had only one named storm for the Atlantic hurricane season, but then Beryl emerged.

The storm started as a disturbance in the last week of June and rapidly developed as it moved westward across the Atlantic Ocean. Upon reaching the Lesser Antilles, Beryl had intensified to a Category 4 hurricane. Upon entering Caribbean waters, it became the earliest Category 5 hurricane on record.

What happened? Normally, hurricane seasons progress slowly until they peak in August, but that hasn’t been the case this year. Meteorologists think this is because the water temperatures in the Atlantic are unusually warm.

The average temperature in the North Atlantic has been at record levels since the spring of 2023, with some areas 9 degrees Fahrenheit above the historical average. Since the accumulation of thermal energy in the water is the first ingredient for hurricanes, this explanation starts to make sense.

Oscillation and La Niña. This season’s outlook leads to a pessimistic forecast. Predictions made a few months ago suggested that this year’s season would be intense, partly due to the accumulated water temperature and partly because of changes in the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), a global climate phenomenon in the tropical Pacific Ocean.

A few months ago, ENSO transitioned from the El Niño phase to La Niña phase. While El Niño supports the appearance of cyclones in the Pacific, La Niña tends to make them more intense in the Atlantic.

Early forecasts estimated that La Niña would arrive around mid-season. Since then, it seems that the transition speed has been slowing down, but the threat of an even stronger second half of the season remains.

Image | OhHaiMark (Commons)

Related | We’re Expecting a Hurricane Season So Active That We’ll Probably Run Out of Names for the Storms

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