MIAMI — The 2013 Atlantic season has delivered the fewest hurricanes since 1982, U.S. forecasters said Monday, despite their predictions in May that it would be a busier-than-normal year.
“It was a busted forecast,” said Chris Landsea, a forecaster at the National Hurricane Center. “We did not anticipate it to be a quiet year.”
Forecasters had predicted 13 to 20 named Atlantic storms, seven to 11 that strengthen into hurricanes and three to six that become major hurricanes.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said there was a 70 percent chance that this year was going to be more active than an average hurricane season. NOAA only put the chance of a quiet year at 5 percent.
There were 13 named storms — right on target — but only two, Ingrid and Humberto, became hurricanes. Neither was considered “major,” which is a storm that reaches Category 3 strength with winds from 111 to 129 mph that can cause devastating damage.
Forecasters say that a combination of factors, including drier-than-expected air and persistent conditions in the atmosphere over the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea, and tropical Atlantic Ocean, led to the weaker season, which starts June 1 and ends Saturday. A normal year has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major storms with winds over 110 mph.
NOAA says 2013 will rank as the sixth least-active year since 1950, in terms of the collective strength and duration of tropical storms and hurricanes.
Only one storm, Tropical Storm Andrea, made landfall in the United States. It brought tornadoes, heavy rain, and minor flooding to portions of Florida, eastern Georgia and eastern South Carolina, causing one death, NOAA said.
Unlike the U.S., Mexico was battered by eight storms, including three from the Atlantic basin and five from the eastern North Pacific.
Landsea said that in the Atlantic, hurricane activity tends to come in cycles, with the U.S. being in an active cycle that began in 1995. The cycles last from 25 to 40 years, so it's unclear whether 2013 will be harbinger of things to come.
“It may be that we'll jump right back to a busy hurricane season, a lot of impacts, or it could be that we're, you know, changing to a quiet regime again. We really don't know,” Landsea said.
The relative calm in the Atlantic has no relationship to hurricane activity elsewhere, pointing to the storms that hit Mexico and Typhoon Haiyan, which struck the Philippines Nov. 8, killing more than 5,200.
Last year was the third-busiest on record with 19 named storms. Ten became hurricanes and two were major storms, including Sandy.