Posted: 2:05 pm Thursday, May 23rd, 2013

NOAA forecasts above-average hurricane season 

By Eliot Kleinberg

Posted 2 p.m. May 23, 2013
Eliot Kleinberg

The federal government called Thursday for an above-average hurricane season.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration called for a 70 percent likelihood that 13 to 20 systems would reach at least tropical storm status and gain names, with seven to 11 of those becoming hurricanes and three to six of those major hurricanes, at Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Scale, with top sustained winds of at least 111 mph.

The historical average for 1981 to 2010 is 12, 6 ½, and two.

Forecasters never predict where, when or whether a storm will strike land.  And 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 not for people in Florida, which hasn’t had a hurricane landfall since 2005. And a quiet year, 1992, produced only six storms, of which four were hurricanes, including a big storm, Andrew.

“With the devastation of Sandy fresh in our minds, and another active season predicted, everyone at NOAA is committed to providing life-saving forecasts in the face of these storms and ensuring that Americans are prepared and ready ahead of time,” NOAA acting administrator Kathryn Sullivan said Thursday at a briefing at NOAA’s Center for Weather and Climate Prediction in College Park, Md., near Washington.

Sullivan (NOAA)

NOAA’s forecast cited a continuation of the cycle of more and stronger storms that’s been around since 1995; warmer-than-average water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean; and the absence of an El Niño, the Pacific Ocean warm-water phenomenon that tends to hinder tropical storms and hurricanes.

Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, also cited weaker wind shear –the clash between upper- and lower-level winds that can pull apart a storm’s circulation — as well as the existence of winds from Africa that favor formation.

In May 2012, NOAA predicted 12 to 17 named storms, with five to eight becoming hurricanes and two to three of those major hurricanes. The year produced 19, 10 and one.

 

NOAA will issue an updated outlook in early August, just before the historical peak of the season.

On April 10, the Colorado State University hurricane forecast team forecast the 2013 season would generate 18, nine and four. It updates that forecast on June 3.

In 2012, the Colorado State team predicted 13, five and four at the beginning of the season, tweaking that on Aug. 3 to 14, six and two.

The season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. May 26 to June 1 is National Hurricane Preparedness Week.