Is there an explanation for this? Many blame El Niño. We've been hearing about it since before the start of hurricane season 2015.
According to Scientific American, "the current 2015–16 El Niño is one of the three strongest ever recorded. The other two occurred in 1982–83 and 1997–98". Many in the media are referring to it as 'The Godzilla El Niño". Worst yet, it should hit its peak this winter.
For those who may not know, El Niño is a warming of the equatorial waters of the Pacific Ocean. It messes with marine and atmospheric currents alike making for wet conditions in typically dry areas and vise versa.
This phenomenon may cause nasty storms that impact the west coast of the US, but not all storms are sparked by El Niño. Again, in an article by Scientific American, they explain, "storms may be influenced by “El Niño but not one storm can be called “an El Niño storm.”
However, there is something that may be a direct impact. The warming of the Pacific waters caused a very active 2015 Pacific season. Here's the end-of-season report from NHC:
For the 2015 hurricane season overall, the basin was very active with 18 named storms, 13 hurricanes, and 9 major hurricanes. There were three unnamed tropical depressions and another tropical depression that formed in the basin that became a tropical storm (Ela) in the central North Pacific. Activity for 2015 was well above the long-term means of 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes. The number of major hurricanes observed in the basin in 2015 was the highest since reliable records began in 1971.
On the other hand, "El Niño" made for a quieter hurricane season in the Atlantic basin.
None stranger than a winter hurricane. As of Thursday January 14th, there is a category 1 system in the Eastern Atlantic by the name of "Alex". It should impact the Azores before dissipating over the weekend in the cold waters of the Northern Atlantic.
So is this part of "El Niño"?, Not really. Most of "El Niño's" impacts tend to be across North America and parts of South America. "Alex" may just be a fluke.
This is not without precedent: Back in 1938 a Hurricane developed on January 1st with winds of 80 mph. Then there was "Alice", which became a category 1 on December 31st 1954, and lingered into January of '55.
We will continue to monitor "El Niño", the melting of Polar Caps, and all the other climate factors influencing our weather. This winter may be more active than we'd like it to be.