The recent tropical storm Cindy that made landfall in southwestern Louisiana near the city of Cameron and Port Arthur, Texas on June 22, 2017 with maximum sustained winds of 45 MPH was perhaps the most unique tropical cyclone in recent memory. Not only was all thunderstorm activity associated with it occurring hundreds of miles away from the center of circulation, the actual storm itself was mainly void of any clouds. This phenomenon was due to strong wind shear blowing all the storms associated with it well away from the circulation.
Another factor preventing the storm from getting its act together was a strong flow of dry air from Mexico constantly surrounding it and even getting mixed into the circulation. Thus, Cindy was a named tropical storm that perhaps should not have been named at all.
The storm’s highest sustained winds while out over the Gulf of Mexico reached 60 MPH for a few hours, shortly before making landfall. However, Cindy was reported to have multiple centers of circulation at times. The storm should have been considered a tropical depression at best, based on its lack of organization.
A fact that is even stranger than tropical storm Cindy itself is the hurricane drought the Gulf of Mexico has been experiencing since 2013. Hurricane Hermine ended the drought on September 1, 2016 when it officially became a hurricane just 100 miles southwest of Apalachicola, Florida. Even with Hermine, the Gulf of Mexico has been suspiciously void of any major tropical activity.
One could blame the tropical drought on lower water temperatures, but this is not a factor since water temperatures have been high enough at the right time of year throughout the period to produce hurricanes. All other indications such as wind shear, dry air at high levels, or any cold fronts, which usually are to blame for prohibiting tropical formations, were for the most part absent which should have allowed storm formations.
There is one aspect at play in the Gulf of Mexico which is quite possibly the main culprit in preventing tropical storm systems from forming that absolutely no one from NOAA, the National Weather Service, or even NASA has thought of. This being that the surface waters of the Gulf of Mexico no longer have the evaporation mechanism necessary for the convection of massive storm formations. We still have the heat and humidity associated with these waters, but the full evaporation mechanism necessary for building huge storms simply isn’t there.
The reason for this can only be one factor, above all else, being the massive amounts of crude oil from the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in 2010 which dumped over 5 million barrels of crude into the waters of the gulf before being contained.
The timing of the BP Disaster goes along perfectly with the beginning of the hurricane drought in the gulf. The last hurricane in the Gulf of Mexico was 2013 with a void of any storms until 2016. The time from the BP disaster in 2010 began a process of spreading a thin layer of oil over the entire surface of the Gulf. It was not until 2013 that enough of the water surface was covered to prevent the usual natural evaporation process from taking place. This thin layer of oil was sufficient in preventing convection necessary for storm formation. The formation of hurricane Hermine in 2016 may be an indication that the layer of oil covering the water may be lessening, either by a natural process of bio-degradation or becoming dispersed throughout the Atlantic Ocean by currents.
Either way, it could mean the waters of the Gulf of Mexico are returning to normal. If this scenario is the case, we can look forward to a gradual increase in tropical storm and hurricane formation in this area in the coming years. It could also be a mechanism in preventing hurricanes from forming in the Atlantic off the African coast to the Caribbean. Since the currents then carry water, along with the thin layer of oil out of the Gulf of Mexico northward along the east coast of the US, out over the north Atlantic and back around through the hurricane formation zone from northern Africa to the Caribbean.
Interestingly, the human caused BP oil disaster may have been responsible for preventing many disastrous hurricanes from hitting the US gulf coast and Mexico. Thus, a human caused environmental disaster has prevented many natural storm related disasters.