Posted: 11:59 am Wednesday, December 8th, 2010
By Eliot Kleinberg
It’s hard to think about hurricanes during a South Florida cold snap. But here goes:
The team at Colorado State University came out today with its 2011 hurricane season forecast, its 28th year of prognostication.
Noted soothsayer William Gray and his protégé, Philip Klotzbach, called for 17 named storms, with nine becoming hurricanes.
It said five of those would grow to major storms, at Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with top sustained winds of at least 111 mph.
The historical average (1950-2000) is 9.6, 5.9, and 2.3.
The team said it was uncertain whether the tropics still would be under the influence of La Niña — the opposite of El Niño, the warm water phenomenon that tends to hinder hurricane activity — or be in a “neutral” condition.
“Sea surface temperatures in the far North Atlantic remain at record warm levels, which is an indication that we are in an active multi-decadal period for Atlantic hurricane activity,” Klotzbach said in a release.
The team gave a 49 percent chance a major hurricane will strike the Florida peninsula and a 73 percent chance for the U.S. coastline; the long-term averages are 31 percent and 52 percent, respectively.
The team will update its predictions on April 6, June 1 and Aug. 3. The season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.
It’s important to remember that such forecasts are of interest mostly as mental exercises and should have no impact on how you prepare for hurricane season.
This year was a great example. It tied for the third busiest on record. But none of the dozen hurricanes struck the U.S. coastline, much less South Florida.
While the predictions are interesting, there’s no a magic number above which the world is going to end and below which we are completely safe. Residents are urged to prepare every year as if at least one hurricane will hit them, which of course could happen in either a busy year or a quiet one.