It’s been a wild and historic start to the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, but it could get even wackier next week.
It sure seems like Mother Nature is ready to hop on the ‘only in 2020’ bandwagon.
As of Friday, the National Hurricane Center’s official forecast called for two hurricanes to be in place in the Gulf of Mexico at the exact same time, likely taking place next Monday or Tuesday.
According to hurricane researcher Dr. Phil Klotzbach of Colorado State University, this would be the first time in recorded history that two hurricanes would be in the Gulf of Mexico at the same.
“We have not had two hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico at the same time before,” Dr. Klotzbach told Spectrum News on Friday. “It remains to be seen if this is going to pan out.”
After developing in the western Atlantic Ocean on Friday, Tropical Storm Laura is forecast to move over or near South Florida this weekend or early next week, before potentially turning its sights on the western Gulf of Mexico.
Meanwhile, Tropical Depression Fourteen is expected to get pulled into the Gulf from the south this weekend and early next week.
The potential result? The possibility that two hurricanes could be over the Gulf of Mexico at the same time.
The simple reason why it’s so rare to get two hurricanes at the same time: The Gulf of Mexico just isn’t that big.
At a tick over 600,000 square miles in size, the Gulf of Mexico is barely half the size of the neighboring Caribbean Sea, or about three percent of the Atlantic Ocean and barely one percent of the Pacific Ocean’s monstrous reach.
But this wild forecast means that most of the Gulf of Mexico could feel the impacts from two different simultaneous hurricanes next week.
In fact, on Friday morning, the town of Chauvin, Louisiana was briefly under the NHC’s forecast cone – for two different tropical systems. This is first known time a U.S. city fell under more than one forecast cone.
The only other times that two separate named storms (tropical storms or hurricanes) were both simultaneously in the Gulf of Mexico, according to Klotzbach, were in September 1933 and June 1959.
In 1933, a tropical storm that had just weakened down from hurricane strength shared the Gulf with a separate hurricane.
On June 18th, 1959, two tropical storms were also in the Gulf of Mexico at the same time.
But as far as Klotzbach’s research goes back, there are no recorded instances of two hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico at the same time.
If you thought two simultaneous hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico was crazy enough, there’s one final (albeit unlikely) scenario that could prove to be the meteorological icing on the cake to all of this.
When two storms are close enough to one another, they can get pulled into one another’s orbit and essentially dance around each other. That’s known as the Fujiwhara Effect.
It’s a rare happenstance even over the expansive Pacific, but it’s unheard of in the (relatively) tiny Gulf of Mexico.
Even though both storms will likely be sharing the Gulf of Mexico next week, it still appears unlikely that the Fujiwhara will take place – though it can’t be entirely ruled out.
“They may still be just too far apart. If they were to actually get fairly close, one could shear apart the other,” Dr. Klotzbach said. “I suspect the odds of that happening are fairly low.”
With or without the Fujiwhara Effect, though, the tropics will be plenty interesting, if not record-breaking next week.