Experts are calling for a below-normal hurricane season this year, as a potential El Niño may limit the development of storms.
AccuWeather meteorologists are predicting 10 named storms, five of which are projected to become hurricanes and three of which may become major hurricanes.
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season forecast released Thursday from Colorado State University calls for a total of 11 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes according to the forecast prepared by the CSU Tropical Meteorology Project, headed by Dr. Phil Klotzbach.
“The big factor is going to be the fact that we now believe El Niño will come on board some time during the summer and will continue all the way through the rest of the hurricane season,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said.
El Niño is characterized by warmer-than-normal ocean water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. It typically causes episodes of strong westerly winds in the tropical Atlantic, which inhibit the development of storms.
“That’s the number one reason we’re going with just below normal,” Kottlowski said.
Though the transition is likely, it's too soon to tell how quickly El Niño will develop and how strong it will become. If the El Niño pattern becomes moderate in the late summer and fall - meaning episodes of these winds are more frequent, the season could end early.
Despite these uncertainties, two to four tropical impacts are forecast for the United States.
A close eye is being kept on coastal sections of the northern Gulf of Mexico, including Florida, and the Southeast coast for development, Kottlowski said.
Analog years, or years in which the climatic pattern was similar to the current pattern, suggest these regions may be particularly vulnerable to impacts.
Deep, warm water and high sea surface temperatures over the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean also threaten to support at least one high impact hurricane similar to Joaquin in 2015 and Matthew in 2016.
The 2017 season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, follows the deadliest in over 10 years for the Atlantic basin.
Last season spawned 15 named storms, seven of which were hurricanes. It was also the costliest Atlantic hurricane season since 2012.
There is no strong correlation between the number of storms or hurricanes and U.S. landfalls in any given season. One or more of the storms forecast to develop this season could hit the U.S., or none at all. Therefore, residents of the coastal United States should prepare each year no matter the forecast.
A couple of classic examples of why you need to be prepared each year occurred in 1992 and 1983.
The 1992 season produced only six named storms and one subtropical storm. However, one of those named storms was Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida as a Category 5 hurricane.
In 1983 there were only four named storms, but one of them was Alicia. The Category 3 hurricane hit the Houston-Galveston area and caused almost as many direct fatalities there as Andrew did in South Florida.
In contrast, the 2010 season was active. There were 19 named storms and 12 hurricanes that formed in the Atlantic Basin. But despite the large number of storms that year, not a single hurricane and only one tropical storm made landfall in the United States.
In other words, a season can deliver many storms, but have little impact, or deliver few storms and have one or more hitting the U.S. coast with major impact.
Posted on Tue, April 11, 2017
by The Lafourche Gazette