Active hurricane season predicted

Early forecasts indicate 2009 will be an above average hurricane season with 14 named storms.

BY VICKI DESORMIER | BOULDER | December 22, 2008



"The media and general public should realize that there is a large amount of uncertainty with our early December prediction, issued seven months prior to the start of the hurricane season"

—Dr. Phil Klotzbach


If current trends in the oceanic conditions hold, we can expect an above average hurricane season, Dr. Phil Klotzbach and Dr. William Gray of Colorado State University said in a report issued last week.

Though he retired officially in 2005, Gray – who has become synonymous with long-range hurricane prognostication, has continued on with the CSU Tropical Meteorology Project, while turning the main prediction duties over to Klozbach this year.

This year's report, which includes data collected through the end of the last hurricane season, shows the next season, which begins June 1, will be "somewhat more active than the average season," based on statistics from 1950 through 2000.

The report offers the prediction that there will be approximately seven Atlantic hurricanes in 2009 (the average is 5.9). There will be, the report claims, 14 named storms, though only about half of those will strengthen beyond the tropical storm stage. (The average number of named storms is 9.6 per year.)

According to the predictions, the 14 named storms will take place over the course of 70 days scattered throughout the 183 day season. The average year has 49 days.

Three of the 14 storms are expected to be "intense", meaning they will be a Category 3 or higher – this is only slightly above the 50 year average of 2.3 storms of the greatest intensity per year. Those three storms will last a little more than two days each, covering seven days over the course of the season, the prediction team said.

There is a 63 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the United States, according to the report. For the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula, the probability of a major hurricane making landfall is 39 percent (the long-term average is 31 percent). For the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville, the probability is 38 percent (the long-term average is 30 percent). The team predicts above-average major hurricane landfall risk in the Caribbean.

The authors of the report stress that it is preliminary and will be revised several times as the hurricane season approaches.

"The media and general public should realize that there is a large amount of uncertainty with our early December prediction, issued seven months prior to the start of the hurricane season," Klotzbach said.

The team will update the long-range forecast on April 7, June 2, Aug. 4, Sept. 2 and Oct. 1.

He added the new forecast is based on factors including warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures that are expected to continue throughout the winter and which will make conditions ripe for hurricanes with the arrival of summer. In addition, El Niño is not expected to influence the weather patterns during hurricane season. El Niño is an oscillation of the ocean-atmosphere system in the tropical Pacific having important consequences for weather all over the world. During certain cycles, the patterns of churning winds in the Pacific can intensify, or in some cases – such as this year – calm, the Atlantic hurricane activity.

"We are currently in an active period for Atlantic hurricane activity. This active cycle in the Atlantic basin is expected to continue for another decade or two at which time we should enter a quieter Atlantic major hurricane period like we experienced during the periods from 1970-1994 and 1901-1925," Gray said.

The 2009 storms will be named Ana, Bill, Claudette, Danny, Erika, Fred, Grace, Henri, Ida, Joaquin, Kate, Larry, Mindy, Nicholas, Odette, Peter, Rose, Sam, Teresa, Victor and Wanda. There are six sets of names that are used repeatedly, but when a storm is exceptionally strong (such as Andrew or Katrina) those names are retired.


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