Initially calling for a slightly below average hurricane season back in December, 2000. Dr. William Gray recently updated his forecast, and upgraded his earlier projection to numbers approaching normal activity in the Atlantic. His team now indicates that there will be at least 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes, which is one more named storm and hurricane than predicted back in December, 2000 when Gray deemed his forecast "below the long-term average." Dr. William Gray, is the pre-eminent hurricane forecaster in the United States, and he works in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University. He has issued accurate forecasts for the past two hurricane seasons including four major hurricanes last season, which was just short of the five actual major hurricanes that occurred in 1999.
Due to ambiguous climate indicators so far this year, and the possibility of only having a weak to moderate El Nino event develop during the summer of 2001, Dr. William Gray, the most renowned hurricane forecaster around today, raised his initial numbers from December, 2000 to have now 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes during the upcoming 2001 Hurricane Season. While these numbers are still far below the record activity of the past six years or so, and barely above the 50-year average, they are still considered normal activity for the Atlantic Basin, and still out performs the numbers compiled during the period from 1970-1994, which was dominated by severe drought in much of equatorial Africa, and several significant El Nino events.
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Back in December, 2000, Gray indicated that this year's forecast was going to be tricky since many of the key climatological determinants were not clear in giving an indication of what might happen this upcoming season. The reason for the ambiguity and uncertainty, is the emergence of another El Nino episode, albeit much weaker than in 1997. This El Nino will again make upper level conditions unfavorable for development since winds will be blowing more strongly from the West. However, there are signals to the contrary in the Atlantic so far this year as sea surface temperatures, pressures at the ocean's surface, and the development of the Azores High all seem to point favorably toward an active season. Apparently feeling that these positive and negative indicators will somehow cancel each other out, Dr. Gray issued his updated forecast with the slightly higher numbers in terms of named storms and hurricanes. These numbers are just slightly higher than the average numbers of 9.3 named storms, 5.8 hurricanes, and 2.2 major hurricanes that have accumulated over the past 40 years.
The El Nino, which has been dormant for the past several years, is anticipated to develop this summer, and bring only weak to moderate sea surface temperatures to the Pacific Coast region of South Africa. This upcoming El Nino event is expected to be no where near as strong as the previous El Nino in 1997 that was perhaps the strongest on record, and hindered tropical development in the Atlantic as there was only seven named storms, four hurricanes, and one major hurricane that did not threaten any land areas. The El Nino is a condition where sea surface temperatures in the Eastern Pacific become much warmer than normal creating abnormal weather patterns such as drought and fire in Australia, heavy rains in the Southeastern United States, and dry conditions in California while inhibiting hurricane development in the Atlantic Basin.
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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.
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