Can hurricanes happen in the winter?

While it is unusual for tropical systems to develop during the winter months, it can be possible.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June through November. However, that raises the question: can a hurricane happen in the winter?

Let’s start with how hurricanes develop

For the formation of a hurricane, a few key ingredients must be in place. Warm ocean waters of at least 26 degrees Celsius or higher are required. A pre-existing weather disturbance also needs to be present, such as a tropical wave or area of low pressure. These ‘tropical waves’ typically emerge off the coast of Africa and move westward into the Atlantic. Low wind shear is also important for a hurricane to form and strengthen. This is a region where there is very little change in wind speed and/or direction with altitude.

SEE ALSO: How hot water fuels the world’s most powerful hurricanes

Hurricane season

Hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to November 30, with 97 per cent of tropical activity occurring during this timeframe. However, we have the best chance of seeing all of the necessary ingredients come together in the summer, peaking late-August and September. Hurricane season reaches its climatological peak on September 10.

Hurricane statistics

However, tropical storms or hurricanes have historically formed every month of the year in the Atlantic! One of note: Tropical Storm Alberto, which caused $125 million worth of damage in May of 2018. Sixty per cent of off-season hurricanes occur in the month of May, with only one cyclone recorded for the month of March. So, while these storms are unusual, all it takes is the right combination of atmospheric conditions and warm ocean waters for a tropical cyclone to form, regardless of the date.

In the latest edition of #AskAMet, The Weather Network meteorologist Jessie Uppal breaks it all down. Watch the video above to learn more.

And if you have a weather-related question on your mind, send it to @JessieUppalTWN using the hashtag #AskAMet!