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Posted at 11:45 AM ET, 08/ 4/2009

NOAA Hurricane Outlook to be Revised Lower?

By Steve Tracton

* Heating up: Full Forecast | NatCast | Climate Change and Jellyfish *

hurricane-andrew-goesir.gif
Satellite image of Hurricane Andrew, which battered South Florida during the otherwise quiet hurricane season of 1992.

UPDATE, 11:45 a.m.: The Colorado State tropical prediction experts lowered their outlook for this season's Atlantic tropical activity for the third time according to a report released this morning. They are now calling for 10 named storms down from 11 in their June outlook, 12 in their April outlook, and 14 in their December outlook.

In May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued its 2009 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook which called for a 50% chance of a near-normal season with nine to 14 named storms and four to seven hurricanes. The outlook also indicates a 25% chance of an above-normal season and a 25% chance of a below-normal season. A revised outlook, scheduled for release on August 6, will likely shift the odds towards the below normal category, largely due to the influence of El Niño.

So what's the big deal?? I'll get to that, but first....

It is well-known that that El Niño tends to reduce hurricane activity in the Atlantic Basin (here) due to increased vertical wind shear (stronger winds aloft than near the surface) that can tear apart a developing storm. At the time of the May outlook, there was considerable uncertainty regarding the possible development of El Niño. By July, however, it became clear that El Niño had arrived and is expected to continue developing during the next several months, with further strengthening possible.

As reported by the Miami Herald, Gerry Bell, NOAA's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster, wouldn't say how or if El Niño might change NOAA's updated outlook. "El Niño isn't the only factor in the game," he said.

However, the Director of NOAA's Office of Atmospheric Research, Dr. Richard Spinrad, testified at a hearing of the Senate Commerce Committee (here, about 68 minutes into video) that the revised outlook "will accommodate the consequences of what is clearly now an El Niño signal". This testimony was in response to a question asking Dr. Spinrad what he sees for the balance of the hurricane season given the tendency for El Niño to suppress hurricane activity.

So what is the big deal?? Does this mean it will be a relatively benign hurricane season?? Hardly!! Dr. Spinrad added - rightly so - that the relationship between El Niño and Atlantic hurricane activity is only statistical in nature. Over many, many years on average hurricane activity tends to be less during El Niño years, but this most certainly does not guarantee that any given year will be relatively inactive. And, even if were less active than normal when El Niño conditions existed, all it takes is one major hurricane to wreak havoc, as was the case with Hurricane Andrew in 1992.

Finally, we should not become complacent this year given there have been no named storms to date. On average, the most active part of the hurricane season is between the beginning of August and end of October. Andrew, the first storm of 1992 ("A" storm) did not achieve named status until August 17. The latest first storm on record was Hurricane Arlene in 1967 which did not appear on the scene until August 28th. It was followed by an additional seven named storms that year.

Related Posts:

Hurricane Season Off to Slow Start

Weather Gang's Matt Rogers on El Niño

El Niño & Hurricanes: Devil May Be in Details

Obama Proclaims Hurricane Preparedness Week

By Steve Tracton  | August 4, 2009; 11:45 AM ET
Categories:  Tracton, Tropical Weather  
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Next: PM Update: Heat and Humidity Join Forces

Comments

Colorado State lowered their prediction (PDF) this morning.

Posted by: Ian-CapitalWeatherGang | August 4, 2009 11:28 AM | Report abuse

There was some convection this morning on the south edge of a tropical wave in the middle of the Atlantic...perhaps worthy of a hurricane-hunter investigation.

Posted by: Bombo47jea | August 4, 2009 12:35 PM | Report abuse

Why didn't you tag this "Climate Change" like past CWG articles/columns on hurricanes? Don't want to remind people of past "climate change" predictions?

Mr. Freedman, you used to have a YouTube video posted which was embedded in this column. According to YouTube, "This video has been removed by the user."

Can you please post that video back up on YouTube? It is even more relevant today, is it not?

Thanks in advance,
Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | August 4, 2009 3:30 PM | Report abuse

TROPICAL DISCUSSION - INTERNATIONAL DESKS
NWS HYDROMETEOROLOGICAL PREDICTION CENTER CAMP SPRINGS MD
226 PM EDT TUE AUG 04 2009

OUTLOOK: MEDIUM RANGE GUIDANCE IS SHOWING A GRADUAL TRANSITION ON
THE NORTHERN PORTIONS OF THE DOMAINS. ON DAYS 04-05...THE RIDGE
OVER THE WESTERN USA WILL RELOCATE TO THE EASTERN USA/WESTERN
ATLANTIC. IN-TANDEM...AN UPPER LEVEL TROUGH WILL THEN ESTABLISH
OVER THE WESTERN ATLANTIC TO NORTH OF THE ISLANDS. DOWNSTREAM FROM
THIS TROUGH...A RIDGE WILL GRADUALLY BUILD/ESTABLISH OVER THE
EASTERN ATLANTIC TO THE NORTH OF 20N. THIS CHANGE WILL COINCIDE
WITH AN INCREASE IN THE MJO...WHICH SHOULD LAST FOR TWO TO THREE
WEEKS. THIS WILL BRING US CLOSER TO THE TYPICAL/MORE SEASONAL
CLIMATOLOGICAL PATTERN OVER THE DOMAIN...AND LIKELY MAKE IT MORE
FAVORABLE FOR TROPICAL CYCLONE FORMATION.

Posted by: RWJ1990 | August 4, 2009 4:22 PM | Report abuse

Wow, this Steve Tracton guy sounds like a rocket scientist.

He points out that odds are that this hurricane season will be less active than the average.

Steve says:
"So what is the big deal?? Does this mean it will be a relatively benign hurricane season?? Hardly!!"
He announces, with double ?? and double !! that it is possible that a hurricane could still hit the US!! Breaking news!!

I nominate Steve Tracton!! for a Nobel (or Pulitzer) prize!! for stating the obvious.!!

Posted by: spamsux1 | August 4, 2009 4:27 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Q: I don't have the video to repost on Youtube, and don't think it was relevant to this post anyway. The video was for Climate Central, and it explores the relationship between climate change and hurricanes (both frequency and intensity). This post just deals with shorter term variability, and the outlook for this particular season, rather than long-term trends.

spamsux1: Steve T emphasized those points because, had he not made them, readers such as yourself might have interpreted the downgraded outlook as a sign that they should no longer be concerned about hurricanes this year. The emphasis on Hurricane Andrew is key, because as Steve noted, that destructive storm took place in an otherwise quiet year.

Posted by: Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang | August 4, 2009 6:13 PM | Report abuse

"The latest first storm on record was Hurricane Arlene in 1967 which did not appear on the scene until August 28th."

And the next named storm in 1967 was Beulah, a very damaging major hurricane (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hurricane_Beulah etc.)

Posted by: Murre | August 4, 2009 8:43 PM | Report abuse

Mr. Freedman wrote, "The video was for Climate Central, and it explores the relationship between climate change and hurricanes (both frequency and intensity). This post just deals with shorter term variability, and the outlook for this particular season, rather than long-term trends."

I suspect that had this been an active hurricane season you would be singing a different tune. Funny how when the temperature goes down it is natural variability, but when it goes up it is global warming. And now, when the hurricane season is off to a slow start, it is nothing more than "shorter term variability" and not a reflection of "long-term trends".

It appears that the qualifying characteristic is whether or not it supports your argument.

I suppose we will have to agree to disagree on this point.

Did you have any luck getting MIT to release the information I requested?

I am prepared to answer the last question you asked me if you are still interested.

Mr. Q.

Posted by: Mr_Q | August 4, 2009 11:52 PM | Report abuse

Andrew-CapitalWeatherGang Wrote:

"spamsux1: Steve T emphasized those points because, had he not made them, readers such as yourself might have interpreted the downgraded outlook as a sign that they should no longer be concerned about hurricanes this year. The emphasis on Hurricane Andrew is key, because as Steve noted, that destructive storm took place in an otherwise quiet year."

Well Andrew, that's a rather condescending view of my level of intelligence.
Having lived in Florida for decades, I never discount the possibility of a hurricane strike.

And believe it or not, I do understand that predictions are just that: a best guess as to what the season will look like.

Also, the models only attempt to predict the number and severity of storms, not the location of their landfall.

Thanks for watching out for "readers such as [myself]" though.

Posted by: spamsux1 | August 5, 2009 11:56 AM | Report abuse

@spamsux1

Fair enough. You're informed about the limitations of hurricane outlooks, but it's likely a large segment of the population is not. That's who Steve was attempting to inform...

Posted by: CapitalWeatherGang | August 5, 2009 12:22 PM | Report abuse


@spamsux1

'Fair enough. You're informed about the limitations of hurricane outlooks, but it's likely a large segment of the population is not. That's who Steve was attempting to inform..."

Maybe you miss my point Andrew. Residents of hurricane-prone areas may pay little attention to general, long-term forecasts, but they certainly realize the potential of a hurricane to strike and they rely on accurate, real-time data of an approaching storm, provided days in advance, to get ready.

If a hurricane is coming, you go get some bottled water, canned food and twinkies. You don't stock up on those items based on a six-month forecast.

Posted by: spamsux1 | August 5, 2009 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Folks like you and Chris Mooney (Storm World) have pushed the link between Climate Change and hurricane frequency and intensity. Now you change your tune as NOAA lowers its outook. How can this be in the light of the vast amount of Global Warming going on???

Posted by: Postde-subscriber | August 6, 2009 11:24 AM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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