HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) - A record-breaking 2015 hurricane season was full of close calls for the Hawaiian islands, and although the season officially comes to an end on Monday, there is still a possibility of a late-developing system emerging, forecasters say.
"Even though 'official' hurricane season is wrapping up, the experts at the Climate Prediction Center say that El Nino is likely peaking in strength now -- or just past peak -- and only expected to slowly weaken as we head through the winter season," said Robert Ballard, science and operations officer for the Central Pacific Hurricane Center, adding that it leaves the window open for a small possibility of an out-of-season tropical cyclone developing into December.
"It's very unlikely, but not out of the question, and so the forecasters at the Central Pacific Hurricane Center will continue to be alert for that possibility," Ballard said.
The number of named tropical systems in the Central Pacific – 15 of them -- broke records this season, with several coming very close to Hawaii, but none actually making a direct hit. This is all because of the weather phenomenon known as El Nino, which causes a warming of the ocean water, a major driving force behind the storms that developed this year.
"The unusually warm water near the islands, by itself, would have been very capable of supporting landfalling hurricanes this year -- it certainly had a big handle in our oppressive humidity and unusual summer thunderstorms and flash flooding," Ballard said. "However, persistently strong upper level winds from the subtropical jet stream sheared off the tops of the thunderstorms associated with the tropical cyclones as they got close."
Ballard said shearing off the thunderstorms can also change the direction a tropical cyclone will go. Many of the storms that came close to the state weakened and then veered off in time to keep the worst of the weather away.
Of the tropical cyclones in the Central Pacific this season, all but one were named, shattering the previous record of 11 set in 1992 and 1994.
If that doesn't offer enough proof that El Nino was responsible for this, consider the month of August when three Category 4 hurricanes – Kilo, Ignacio and Jimena – made history this year, churning simultaneously near Hawaii in the Central Pacific.
Though it's been a busy hurricane season, forecasters advise the public to not let their guards down in case a storm pops up in the winter season. Late-developing storms can potentially cause the most damage. Experts point to Hurricane Iwa in 1982, which caused more than $300 million in damage.
The following is a list of the 15 named storms in the Central Pacific:
- Tropical Storm Ela
- Tropical Storm Iune
- Tropical Storm Halola
- Hurricane Guillermo
- Hurricane Hilda
- Hurricane Kilo
- Hurricane Loke
- Hurricane Ignacio
- Hurricane Jimena
- Tropical Storm Malia
- Tropical Storm Niala
- Hurricane Oho
- Tropical Depression Eight-C
- Tropical Storm Nora
- Hurricane Olaf