August 9, 2012
NOAA Predicts Rise In Hurricanes This Season
Brett Smith for redOrbit.com - Your Universe Online
NOAA´s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, initially predicted a below normal season for hurricane activity, but a busier than average start to the season has the center revising their predictions and warning coastal residents to prepare for potential storms.
The latest outlook still points to a 50% chance of a near-normal season, but increases the odds of an above-normal season to 35%. Officials peg the chances of a below-normal season at 15%, lower than initial outlook issued in May.
“We are increasing the likelihood of an above-normal season because storm-conducive wind patterns and warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures are now in place in the Atlantic,” said Gerry Bell, a lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center. “These conditions are linked to the ongoing high activity era for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995. Also, strong early-season activity is generally indicative of a more active season.”
One factor that could favor storm development is the near-average water surface temperatures across the Main Development Region, a section of the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea known for fueling storms.
However, strong wind shear was recorded earlier in the year and if it were to persist, the phenomenon would hamper hurricane formation in the Main Development Region. Cooler sea surface temperatures found in the far eastern Atlantic could also impede this season´s storm activity.
One ℠x-factor´ that could play into this season´s hurricane activity could be the role of El NiÃ±o, a warm oceanic phase that occurs across the tropical Pacific Ocean every five years.
“El NiÃ±o is a competing factor, because it strengthens the vertical wind shear over the Atlantic, which suppresses storm development. However, we don´t expect El NiÃ±o´s influence until later in the season,” Bell said.
Earlier this year, NOAA introduced enhancements to two of their computer models available to hurricane forecasters - the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) and the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) models. The upgraded HWRF model, which has a higher resolution and improved atmospheric physics modeling, demonstrated a 20 to 25% improvement in tracking ability and a 15% improvement in predicting storm intensity relative to the previous version.
Despite technological forecasting improvements and signs of a strong El NiÃ±o influence, NOAA officials stressed caution and preparedness among the public.
“We have a long way to go until the end of the season, and we shouldn´t let our guard down,” said Laura Furgione, acting director of NOAA´s National Weather Service. “Hurricanes often bring dangerous inland flooding as we saw a year ago in the Northeast with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Even people who live hundreds of miles from the coast need to remain vigilant through the remainder of the season.”
“It is never too early to prepare for a hurricane,” said Tim Manning, FEMA´s deputy administrator for protection and national preparedness. “We are in the middle of hurricane season and now is the time to get ready. There are easy steps you can take to get yourself and your family prepared. Visit www.ready.gov to learn more.”
What's your zip code's track record for hurricanes? Use this easy online tool from NOAA's Digital Coast to look back in history: http://1.usa.gov/P2luag
And remember: It only takes 1 hurricane to hit your area for it to be a bad year. Keep informed of the latest storm updates at http://www.hurricanes.gov/ and create your own Hurricane Plan at http://www.ready.gov/hurricanes/. You can also follow NOAA's NOAA NWS National Hurricane Center on Twitter at @NHC_Atlantic and @NHC_Pacific.