For the third consecutive year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a hurricane season forecast. This year, the experts at NOAA are calling for an average to above average season with 9 to 13 named storms, 6 to 8 hurricanes, and 2 to 3 major hurricanes. Reasons cited for the average to above average activity are cooler waters in the Pacific, and Increased Rainfall in Western Africa.
They also indicated a 45 percent probability that activity will be near normal this year while above normal activity has a probability of 35 percent, and below normal activity has only a 20 percent probability. They also indicated that past historical data also indicated that similar years in terms of activity had two landfalling hurricanes in the United States and another 1 to 2 hurricanes in the Caribbean.
Several weeks ago to coincide with the start of the Hurricane Season and Hurricane Awareness Week, NOAA issued its third annual hurricane forecast. In this forecast, NOAA indicated that the expected level of activity would range from "near-normal to slightly above normal." Using a statistical guide known as ACE, or Accumulated Cyclone Energy, forecasters projected a "range between 95 to 135 percent of the long term median."
This same historical record indicates that years in which there was this much tropical activity, there were 55 percent of them between 9 to 13 named storms, 6 to 8 hurricanes, and 2 to 3 major hurricanes. Overall, 85 percent of all the similar years had 6 to 8 hurricanes while 70 percent had 2 to 3 major hurricanes, where winds were sustained at over 111 mph. So, it is very possible that there will be yet another very active hurricane season in the Atlantic.
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Reasons for the optimism were the usual favorable conditions for the development over the past seven years. Cooler waters in the Pacific despite the possibility of a stronger than anticipated El Nino event indicated by Dr. William Gray, hurricane forecaster at Colorado State University in his early 2002 prognostication. Looking at the forecast made by NOAA and the one made by Gray, it seems that the two differ on how the El Nino is going to shape up this year.
Gray indicated that the El Nino was going to be weak, but it was going to be stronger than anticipated. Meanwhile, NOAA didn't indicate that the El Nino was going to be stronger than it was originally. Nevertheless, both Gray and NOAA agree that there will be normal to slightly above normal activity this year although Gray indicated 11 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes, and NOAA gave a range of 9 to 13 named storms, 6 to 8 hurricanes, and 2 to 3 major hurricanes.
The folks at NOAA indicated that the current pattern of overall increased rainfall will continue as well as the favorable easterly flow from the Atlantic, and less wind shear due to the weak El Nino even in the Pacific. These conditions have been indicative of the past seven years and similar to those in the 1950s and 1960s when there was tremendous tropical activity with powerful storms.
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The Atlantic Hurricane Season begins on June 1st every year, and lasts until November 30th. The Atlantic Basin consists of the North Atlantic from the West Coast of Africa to the East Coast of the United States, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. The number of named storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes have been up over the past six years as there have been an average of 13 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes.
This has come about due to the La Nina, which is a phenomena that develops when sea surface temperatures in the Eastern and Central Pacific are cooler than normal. This anomaly changes the global weather patterns including making the upper level wind patterns more favorable toward tropical storm and hurricane development in the Atlantic Basin. Meanwhile, El Nino patterns hinder Atlantic tropical development.
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