For the third year in a row, forecasters with the Colorado State University tropical weather and climate research group are calling for a busy hurricane season.
They said we’re likely to see above-average numbers of hurricanes, major hurricanes (Category 3 or stronger) and total named storms (hurricanes plus tropical storms) in the Atlantic basin, which includes the western Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico.
The potential above-average level of activity has something to do with a weak La Nina (colder than normal sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific) that’s likely to transition to neutral conditions — neither El Nino or La Nina — by this summer or fall. So the odds of a significant El Nino seem unlikely. El Nino typically reduces Atlantic hurricane activity due to increases in vertical wind shear, which tend to break apart tropical systems.
Sea surface temperatures (SSTs) averaged across the eastern and central tropical Atlantic are currently near normal but will likely rise ahead of hurricane season. Meanwhile, Caribbean and subtropical Atlantic SSTs are already warmer than normal. Warm SSTs, typically above 80 degrees, help support tropical development and would offset some of the impacts of an El Nino absence.
The Colorado State forecasters anticipate an above-average chance for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental U.S. coastline and in the Caribbean. They are reminding coastal residents that it only takes one hurricane landfall to impact their lives. They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of the forecast.
Trucking and logistics companies should also be ready to respond to recovery efforts after tropical storm and hurricane landfalls. The Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration often exempts drivers from hours-of-service regulations if they’re hauling supplies into damaged areas that would normally be open solely to emergency and utility crews. Supplies initially can include fuel, food, water and hygiene products, followed by lumber, roofing and other construction materials as communities rebuild homes and business.
These are the odds that CSU has pegged for at least one major hurricane landfall in each of the following coastal areas:
- Entire continental U.S. coastline: 71% (average over last century: 52%).
- U.S. East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula: 47% (average over last century: 31%).
- Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville, Texas: 46% (average over last century: 30%).
The probability of at least one major hurricane tracking into the Caribbean is 60% (average over last century: 42%).
This forecast was based on an extended-range early April statistical prediction scheme that was developed using about 40 years of data. Also included are statistical computer models based on 25 to 40 years of data from the European Centre for Medium Range Weather Forecasts, the U.K. Met Office and the Japan Meteorological Agency, used as forecast guidance tools.
The April outlook is the earliest seasonal forecast issued by Colorado State. The accuracy of the forecast increases as the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season approaches. CSU will issue a forecast update on June 2.
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