Posted: 5:27 pm Thursday, March 28th, 2013
By Eliot Kleinberg
Posted 6:30 p.m. EDT, March 28, 2013
NEW ORLEANS –Conditions in the tropics “look favorable for a quite-a-bit above average season,” hurricane soothsayer Bill Gray told a session of the National Hurricane Conference on Thursday.
“We just haven’t settled on the numbers,” Gray said. “The only thing I can see that can stop it is if an El Niño develops for this year, and we don’ t think that will happen.” El Niño is the Pacific Ocean warm-water phenomenon that tends to hinder tropical storms and hurricanes.
The Colorado State University team of Gray and Phil Klotzbach makes its first official season forecast April 10.
In June, at the start of the 2012 season, the team predicted 13 named storms, with five of those becoming hurricanes and four of the six becoming major hurricanes, of at least Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson scale, with top sustained winds of at least 111 mph. It tweaked that on Aug. 3 to 14, six and two. The year produced 19, 10 and one.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted 12 to 17, 5 to 8 and two to three, respectively.
The historical average is 12, six and three.
Gray and his team never say whether or where storms will hit.
Whether anyone predicts a below average or above average season has nearly no effect on the odds a storm will strike an individual place. So managers urge people to prepare as if one will.
The last three years were each among the busiest on record, but people in Florida, which hasn’t had a hurricane landfall since 2005, might well say things were quiet. And a quiet year, 1992, can create a big storm, Andrew.
“People think our forecast does more harm than good because the press doesn’t understand it well and the average citizen doesn’t understand it well,” Gray said. “They think it creates more problem than it’s worth.”
But, he said, “we persist in it because we think there’s a curiousity.”
He also fended off criticism that he issues updated forecasts at the beginning of August, noting that most hurricane activity comes after that.
The season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.