NOAA says active hurricane season still likely
An updated hurricane season forecast issued by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today continues to call for a very active season in the Atlantic Basin, and possibly one of the more active ones on record. NOAA forecasters expect a 90% chance of an above-normal season, with a 70% chance of 14-20 named storms in total (including the three so far), 8-12 of which are predicted to be hurricanes and 4-6 of these major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher).
"There remains a high likelihood that the season could be very active, with the potential of being one of the more active on record," said Gerry Bell in a NOAA release. Bell is lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.
The only real difference between this update and the outlook issued in May is that the upper end of the ranges have been lowered slightly, only because activity so far has not quite matched the maximum potential allowed for in earlier forecasts.
The forecast reasoning is unchanged: La Nina conditions (cooler-than-average waters in the equatorial Pacific Ocean) continue the expectation that wind shear over the Atlantic Ocean should be, in the big picture, relatively weak. Also, waters in the tropical Atlantic and Carribbean Sea remain warm, and we are still in the midst of a multi-decadal uptick in hurricane activity.
In its May 27 forecast, NOAA projected a 70% chance of 14-23 named storms (8-14 hurricanes and 3-7 major hurricanes) based on reasoning similar to that used in this latest outlook:
- An expectation of an upper air flow conducive for storm development (relatively weak wind shear) during the late summer and fall over the regions where tropical cyclones tend to develop -- largely in association with the collapse of El Nino conditions (warmer-than-average waters in the equatorial Pacific) earlier this year.
- Unusually warm waters in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean Sea.
- Continuation of the multi-decadal increase in hurricane frequency that began in the mid-1990s.
As we now approach the meat of the hurricane season (which peaks in mid-September), we shift our attention away from predicting how the season as a whole might shape up based on parameters that tend to vary from season to season, and instead focus on intraseasonal variables that impact the likelihood for storm development on a week-to-week basis.
In other words, the table has been set, so to speak, by the seasonally varying parameters. Now, it's time to forecast the "weather" over the main development regions -- the details of which are critically important to whether any single storm will form and strengthen.
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