The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center has predicted a 70 percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher) will take place this Atlantic hurricane season (June 1-November 30)
The organisation said that 4 to 8 of these storm could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).
While a near-normal season is most likely with a 45 percent chance, there is also a 30 percent chance of an above-normal season and a 25 percent chance of a below-normal season, according to NOAA.
The firm hasforecast uncertainty in the climate signals that influence the formation of Atlantic storms, make predicting this season particularly difficult.
Included in today’s outlook is Hurricane Alex, a pre-season storm that formed over the far eastern Atlantic in January.
Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said: “This is a more challenging hurricane season outlook than most because it’s difficult to determine whether there will be reinforcing or competing climate influences on tropical storm development.
"However, a near-normal prediction for this season suggests we could see more hurricane activity than we’ve seen in the last three years, which were below normal.”
Bell also explained there is uncertainty about whether the high activity era of Atlantic hurricanes, which began in 1995, has ended.
This high-activity era has been associated with an ocean temperature pattern called the warm phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation (AMO), marked by warmer Atlantic Ocean temperatures and a stronger West African monsoon.
However, during the last three years weaker hurricane seasons have been accompanied by a shift toward the cool AMO phase, marked by cooler Atlantic Ocean temperatures and a weaker West African monsoon.
According to Bell, if this shift proves to be more than short-lived, it could usher in a low-activity era for Atlantic hurricanes, and this period may already have begun. High and low activity eras typically last 25 to 40 years.
In addition, the El Niño is dissipating and NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a 70 percent chance that La Niña — which favours more hurricane activity — will be present during the peak months of hurricane season, August through October. However, current model predictions show uncertainty as to how strong La Niña and its impacts will be.
Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA administrator, said: “This is a banner year for NOAA and the National Weather Service — As our Hurricane Forecast Improvement Program turns five, we’re on target with our five-year goal to improve track and intensity forecasts by 20 percent each.”
“Building on a successful supercomputer upgrade in January, we’re adding unprecedented new capabilities to our hurricane forecast models — investing in science and technology infusion to bring more accuracy to hurricane forecasts in 2016.”
According to NOAA, later this season are major new investments to further improve its ability to monitor hurricanes as they form and provide more timely and accurate warnings for their impacts, later this season.
NOAA’s new National Water Model — set to launch later this summer — will provide hourly water forecasts for 700 times more locations than our current flood forecast system, greatly enhancing our ability to forecast inland flooding from tropical systems.
In the fall, NOAA will launch GOES-R, a next generation weather satellite that will scan the Earth five times faster, with a resolution four times greater than ever before, to produce much sharper images of hurricanes and other severe weather.
Joseph Nimmich, FEMA deputy administrator, said: “While seasonal forecasts may vary from year to year — some high, some low — it only takes one storm to significantly disrupt your life.
“Preparing for the worst can keep you, your family, and first responders out of harm’s way. Take steps today to be prepared: develop a family communications plan, build an emergency supply kit for your home, and make sure you and your family know your evacuation route. These small steps can help save your life when disaster strikes.”
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