Thursday, May 19, 2011

Hurricane outlook 2011

The new projections from NOAA have been issued and they show we could be in for another active season. Nothing new here, we've been seeing these types of outlooks now for over 15 years.

Last year was the third most active season on record. We were extremely lucky with no hurricanes making landfall, but don't let your guard down, only one storm made landfall across South Florida in 1992 and it was hurricane Andrew - a cat 5. It just takes one.

Here is the forecast for hurricane season 2011, which starts June 1st.

Expect 12 to 18 named systems out of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes, and out of that number 3 to 6 could turn into major storms (Category 3 or above).

An average season shapes up like this: 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

The experts at NOAA give the 2011 forecast a 70% chance probability of panning out.

Gerry Bell, an expert with the National Hurricane Center goes out on a limb by saying we may be in for a rock-n-roll season. “In addition to multiple climate factors, seasonal climate models also indicate an above-normal season is likely, and even suggest we could see activity comparable to some of the active seasons since 1995.” I hope we don't see that kind activity.

Just remember what no forecast can ever tell us... where a hurricane will make landfall.

So why this outlook?

It appears we remain in the middle of a period of increased hurricane activity lasting about 25 years. This high activity cycle began in 1995. That year stands as the second most active season, with 2005 topping the list.

As you know, hurricanes need about 80° of ocean water temperature to develop . This year, Atlantic ocean water is running up to two degrees warmer-than-average and that could lead to more storms.

La NiƱa, which is a cooling of the Pacific Equatorial waters ( and helps hurricane formation ) continues to weaken, but its effects may stick around well into hurricane season.

Here are some other tid bits for you to ponder. Our instruments have improved hundredfold over last decade. They are able to detect smaller systems that NHC would not have classified as storms in the past. We can detect minute changes in the ocean's temperature and forecast with more accuracy than ever before,but still, mother nature holds back some of its secrets.

There is still a long way to go in forecasting how strong a hurricane will be. (Remember Charlie in 2004?) The science is not yet there, but experts are working on it.

Remember, I can never give you a forecast for an earthquake. If I can give you a 15 minute heads up on a tornado, I am really on my game that day.... but with a hurricane you will never be taken by surprise. Unlike all the other phenomena, you will be bored of seeing me on TV with warnings and advisories regarding a hurricane, sometimes up to a week in advance.

So prepare and you will be fine. Good luck and we'll ride through this hurricane season together.

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