Posted: 11:57 am Thursday, May 19th, 2011
By Eliot Kleinberg
FORT LAUDERDALE — Federal meteorologists today called for an above-average hurricane season, while at the same time warning that even a below-average season still would be an active one.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called for 12 to 18 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes, and three to six major storms, of Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with top sustained winds of at least 111 mph.
The historical average is 11, six and two.
Watch all this week for stories and blog postings from the Florida Governor’s Hurricane Conference in Fort Lauderdale
“The United States was fortunate last year. Winds steered most of the season’s tropical storms and all hurricanes away from our coastlines,” NOAA administrator Jane Lubchenco said in a release. “However we can’t count on luck to get us through this season.”
No one hazards to guess whether or where a storm will hit.
And as always, whether anyone predicts a below average or above average season is more a mental exercise than anything else. It has nearly no effect on the odds a storm will strike an individual place. So managers urge people to prepare as if one will.
Last season was the third busiest on record, but no storms struck the U.S. coastline. And a below-average year produced Hurricane Andrew in 1992.
Today’s forecast comes as emergency managers, government leaders, researchers and meteorologists meet this week in Fort Lauderdale at the Florida Governor’s Hurricane Conference.
With Florida having gone five full seasons without a landfalling hurricane, Gov. Rick Scott warned at Wednesday’s opening session, “we must always remember that every storm has the potential to be deadly.”
As have other forecasters, NOAA today cited three main factors for its forecast:
*Since 1995, the region has been in a decades-long cycle of high hurricane activity.
*The ocean’s surface is about two degrees warmer than average.
*La Niña, the cool-water event that tends to increase storm development, is expected to be gone in June, but still have some influence this year, such as reduced wind shear, which tends to kneecap tropical cyclones.
In early April, the Colorado State University team forecast 16, 9 and 5, slightly dropping down from their December 2010 prediction. In the 2010 season, the team’s June prediction was 18, 10 and 5, close to what occurred.
The season runs June 1 through Nov. 30.