Gray Issues Latest 2003 Forecast
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Seasonal forecasts are becoming the norm when it comes to hurricanes. NOAA has been issuing such forecasts over the past several years, and NEMAS has begun to issue them this year. Dr. William Gray has been issuing seasonal forecasts on Atlantic Hurricanes for 20 years now, and his experience in doing so tells him that the 2003 Atlantic Hurricane Season will only be slightly above average.

Although the numbers of storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes have not deviated at all from those issued in the May, 2003 forecast, Dr. Gray, and his team indicate that the net tropical activity will be lower, and the duration of the storms will be shorter. In his forecast, Gray points out the difference between his team's forecast and ones issued by NOAA along with the fact that a stronger than anticipated Madden-Julian Oscillation has dramatically affected the overall global circulation.

Nevertheless, all the seasonal forecasts are in general agreement that there will be a lot of tropical activity this year. The forecasts only differ on how far above average the 2003 Atlantic Hurricane Season will be. Generally, the forecasts are indicating that there will be 14 to 15 named storms, 7 to 10 hurricanes, and 3 to 5 major hurricanes. However, NEMAS indicates that the season will be well above average while NOAA believes activity will range from 120 to 170 percent of normal, and Dr. Gray's team feels slightly above average.


Activity Expected To Be Well Slightly Above Average In 2003

On August 6, 2003, the team of tropical forecasters from Colorado State led by Dr. William Gray, issued their latest forecast on the 2003 Atlantic Hurricane Season. In this new forecast, Dr. Gray is less optimistic than he was earlier in the season. While he hasn't changed the number of storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes, Dr. Gray has still slightly downgraded his forecast to a slightly above average season.

Still indicating that there will be 14 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes in 2003, Dr. Gray lowered the overall, or net tropical activity from 145% to 120% of the normal averages. What this means is that we will still have a lot of storms, but they will be weaker in intensity and shorter in duration. This is in spite of the fact that there has already been a fast start to the season with 5 named storms, 2 hurricanes, and four tropical depressions as of the time of this report.

Reasons for the shift in thinking was because of a shift in the overall global pattern. Between the months of June and July, 2003, the forecast team noticed a very unusually strong episode of the Madden-Julian Oscillation, which abruptly and vastly affected the global circulation pattern. Madden-Julian has been a culprit before back in 2000 when it was responsible for keeping tropical activity down until the middle of August that year.

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Difference Between Dr. Gray and NOAA

Since NOAA came out with its first forecast several years ago, people have been getting two sets of outlooks on Atlantic Hurricane Seasons. The forecast issued by Gray and his team has been issued year after year for the last twenty years while the NOAA forecast has only been issued before. One big distinction between the two forecasts is that Gray's team gives an exact number of storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes while NOAA gives a range of numbers for each category.

NOAA's forecasts are also independent of Dr. Gray's although it does borrow research from previous forecasts. In addition, there are people such as Chris Landsea and Eric Blake, who take part in both forecast teams. Other differences include that Dr. Gray's forecast is more quantitative than NOAA's, they issue four updated forecasts per year while NOAA issues one (although NOAA did issue an update to their May forecast.), have landfall probability forecasts, individual monthly forecasts, and most importantly, have the skill and expertise to back it up.

Last year, Dr. Gray also was pessimistic on the possibility of an above average season. As a matter of fact, he was even less optimistic than he is this season. After initially indicating that there would be 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes, Gray dropped his numbers to 9 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes. Last season ended up with 12 named storms, 4 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes so Gray ended up being correct in terms of hurricanes and major hurricanes.

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Let's Review Shall We

Summarizing the 2003 Atlantic Hurricane Season as of the time of this report, we have had already five named storms, and two hurricanes including Hurricane Claudette, which was nearly a Category Two Hurricane prior to landfall. In addition, there have been also three tropical depressions: Tropical Depression Two, Tropical Depression Six, and Tropical Depression Seven.

According to the Monthly Summary for July 2003 by NOAA, an average year would have seen only 1.6 named storms, and 0.6 hurricanes by the end of July. Meanwhile, forecasters at NOAA have indicated that the 2003 season will be above average with between 12 to 15 named storms, 7 to 9 named storms, and 3 to 4 hurricanes, which is slightly higher than what they forecasted in May, 2003. Slightly in contrast, Dr. William Gray and his team of forecasters were not as optimistic.

Although their numbers for named storms (14), hurricanes (8), and major hurricanes (3), were the same as earlier in the year, Gray's forecast lowered its net tropical activity rating from to 120 from 145. Finally, NEMAS, which issued its first ever seasonal hurricane forecast, projected 15 named storms, 10 hurricanes, and 5 hurricanes in an above average year.

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