May 15 marks the beginning of the 2014 hurricane season in the eastern Pacific. The season will run until Nov. 30, which coincides with the end of hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin.
The 2014 Atlantic Basin hurricane season does not get underway until June 1. The earlier start time in the eastern Pacific reflects how this basin typically turns active faster than the Atlantic. On average, June 10 is when the first tropical storm is named in the eastern Pacific. In the Atlantic, that date is July 9.
The first tropical storm to develop in the eastern Pacific this year will acquire the name Amanda. The basin, however, is currently quiet.
Hurricanes typically develop much quicker in the eastern Pacific than the Atlantic. The average first date for a hurricane to form in the eastern Pacific is June 26, but not until Aug. 10 in the Atlantic.
The eastern Pacific is historically the more active of the two basins. On average, 15 tropical storms are named each season. Out of those, nine become hurricanes with four reaching major hurricane status.
Despite the eastern Pacific being rather active, the majority of tropical storms and hurricanes never threaten land. A typical eastern Pacific tropical system will head westward into the open and progressively cooler waters of the Pacific, dissipating in the process.
Occasionally, tropical storms and hurricanes will target Mexico and parts of Central America. Though less frequently, some tropical systems have passed through Hawaii but almost all of them are in a much weakened state.
Since records began, the cool water that lies offshore of California has protected the state from direct hits from tropical storms and hurricanes every season but one. In September 1939, an unnamed tropical storm pressed onshore at Long Beach, California, with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph.
Two other storms have moved into Arizona at tropical storm strength. The first was once-Hurricane Joanne in October 1972, followed by once-Hurricane Kathleen in September 1976.
According to official records, no systems have reached the Southwest at hurricane strength; however, before official records began, there were stories of the San Diego Hurricane of 1858.
2014 Eastern Pacific Outlook
For this upcoming season, AccuWeather Long-Range Forecasters expect a weak to moderate El Niño, or a phenomenon marked by above-normal water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, to develop during the second half of the summer. The development of an El Niño favors a more active season in the eastern Pacific as tropical storms and hurricanes thrive on warm water.
AccuWeather.com Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski stated, "During El Niño years, we seem to have a lot higher chance of getting very strong hurricanes, Category 3 hurricanes or higher, in the eastern Pacific."
As is typical for the eastern Pacific, many of the storms are expected to move westward across the basin, moving away from the Mexico coast.
"Even though we will see a real active season, the impacts on Mexico are very difficult to figure - right now at least four impacts across Mexico - maybe five, if there is an early season impact - those impacts sometimes show up very early in the season. We feel that this year the conditions are certainly going to be prime for early season development," Kottlowski said.
"Typically during the September into October time period is when we see most of the landfalls- some of those landfalls will impact the U.S. by bringing very intense rainfall into portions of the Southwest U.S."
Content contributed by AccuWeather Senior Meteorologist Krissy Pydynowski.