Can Nature Predict an Active Hurricane Season?

By Aesha Duval (Follow us on LinkedIn)

Astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson once said, “Even with all our technology and the inventions that make modern life so much easier than it once was, it takes just one big natural disaster to wipe all that away and remind us that, here on Earth, we’re still at the mercy of nature.”

Growing up in the Caribbean, my parents and elders believed a bountiful harvest of tropical fruits were signs we were in for an active hurricane season. They said to us that it was nature’s way of saying, “Enjoy it now, because come next year, you may not get it.”

I know what I saw and experienced during the summer of 2017. Mangoes were everywhere. So plentiful was the harvest, that mangoes were left on the ground to rot in many yards and along roadsides across the islands. People gave them away at work, shared with neighbors and friends, not even bothering to try selling them. Why purchase mangos when so much of it was available for free? Other fruit that were especially plentiful that summer were avocados.

Credit: Jack Hong, shutterstock

What came next was back-to-back Category Five hurricanes, Irma and Maria, in the month of September 2017, which devastated the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.

So, when I saw the pileup of mangos again this summer, despite a months-long drought and weeks of unusual heat waves with 100-degree temperatures and higher, my hurricane-damaged Spidey-sense went up. Are we in for it again this hurricane season? “Enjoy it now, because come next year, you may not get it.”

As the tropics heat up during the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season – late August to early September – I wondered if nature could predict an active hurricane season? (The Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1 and ends November 30.)

A Virgin Islands Daily News writer asked a similar question in an article, “Can mangoes and avocadoes predict the next big hurricane?,” after a government official in 2018 stated in a press conference: “The fact that we had a very abundant avocado season on St. Croix, and mango season on St. Thomas, my instincts and my cultural DNA told me, ‘Be prepared.’ And I don’t say that lightly because we dismissed this storm, we’ve dismissed our ancestral knowledge. So be prepared.”

University of the Virgin Islands ecologist Olasee Davis has made identical claims and described it as an inherent knowledge of a community that is passed on from generation to generation and amounts to thousands of years of observing nature.

Our ancestors did not rely on the spaghetti models, doppler radar and satellite imagery to predict the weather today. Obviously, those did not exist. Instead, they observed the behavior of plants, trees, and animals.

Davis wrote that the elders had a Creole proverb, “Belly full, bruk pot,” or “when a man’s belly is full, he breaks the pot”. The native proverb, recited in different ways across the Caribbean, generally means when someone is satisfied or has what they need, they often forget what hunger or need is. “In times of abundance we are inclined to waste, and that which we attain easily seldom has lasting value,” Davis wrote.

Whether you stand by The Weather Channel or nature for the forecast, the one thing we should all agree on is being prepared. Those of us in hurricane prone areas should stock up on canned goods, bottled water and other survival supplies. In the Caribbean, the other thing we can count on is the loss of electricity for extended periods following a hurricane. Check your generators if you have them and make plans if you need to seek shelter.

Having said all of that, I also understand human nature. We wait until the last minute before a threatening storm to join other unprepared humans in the hardware stores and supermarkets, emptying the aisles of all the essentials. We see the signs, hear the meteorologist’s weather predictions, and know that an active season is coming, yet we become complacent.

Credit: Ronnie Chua, shutterstock

This is also an opportune time to review library disaster response and recovery plans. Visit the American Library Association’s libguide on Library Disaster Preparedness & Response for resources and training. 

As I write this, the tropics and the Atlantic have already sprung to life with at least four named storms. So can nature predict an active hurricane season? Our “nature” scientists say yes, fruits and animals are signs. Let us not forget the proverbs of wisdom that have been passed down and be prepared.

Build a survival kit:

For more information about hurricanes, visit

Author’s note: My heart goes out to the people of Maui and the victims of the Hawaiian wildfires. Click here to learn how to help those affected by the Maui wildfires.


Notes Between Us (NBU) is a blog about conversations and topics of interest to the writers. The writers are expressing their personal opinions solely. The essays represent their personal beliefs and not those of their workplaces or any organization they are associated with.