Hurricane Florence may be all the rage in your newsfeed right now but it’s not the only noteworthy storm tearing through the Northern Hemisphere. Which is a scary thought. In fact, in the past few days, there has been such a pick up in storm activity that the Atlantic Ocean alone is on the verge of doing something that’s only happened once in recorded history. As of Wednesday, there were three major disturbances in the North Atlantic while Paul, Olivia, Mangkhut, and Barijut spun around the rest of the Northern Hemisphere — a hodgepodge of tropical storms and typhoons.
According to the Accumulated Cyclone Energy, or ACE, a metric that combines the duration and intensity of storms, the Northern Hemisphere has already reached 159 percent of its average for this point in the year. And while it might all sound crazy, it turns out it actually shouldn’t be a massive surprise; historically, each major basin is active this time of year. The West Pacific storm season tends to peak July through October, the East Pacific typically has a shorter hurricane season but it also peaks in August and September, and the shortest season of them all in the Atlantic (June through November) typically peaks for a brief period in September.
Even so, this is obviously still more activity than normal. Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher at Colorado State University, tracks storm activity online and has noted a few ways this hurricane season is a bit more active than the average year: The East and Central Pacific have had well above average activity since June, the West Pacific has been near its average all season but has recently hit a high, the North Indian Ocean is typically quite low in activity but has been above average for four months now, and of course, the Atlantic has been right around its normal activity.
Currently, though, the Atlantic is inching toward something that’s almost unprecedented. As of Thursday, Tropical Storm Isaac was tracking west its way to Jamaica, Tropical Storm Helene has sustained winds of 65 mph over the middle of the Atlantic, Subtropical Storm Joyce is just north of that, Hurricane Florence is hitting the U.S. East Coast, and the National Hurricane Center is watching over a fifth storm over the Gulf of Mexico. If that cyclone forms over the next 48 hours, it will be only the second time the Atlantic has had five cyclones at once, the last time being between September 10 and 12, 1971.