An active tropical storm and hurricane season may be just around the corner. Many forecasters believe this upcoming season has the potential to be active. I agree with the initial forecasts.
The 2010 Atlantic hurricane season was the third most active in history. Only 1995, with 19 storms, and 2005, with 28 storms, were higher. Last year, there were 19 named storms with 12 of them becoming hurricanes. Five of those hurricanes were major with a category 3 rating or higher.
Amazingly, the country did not have significant damage from last season’s storms as the upper-level winds directed them away from the U.S. coastlines. Scientists say that it is rare that we see an above-normal number of annual hurricanes and not one of them hits the U.S. coastline. For the 2011 season, which is expected to be active, experts say that coastal areas probably won’t be so lucky this year.
According to Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, “we could see activity comparable to some of the active seasons since 1995.”
Ocean temperatures off the coast of Africa, where many tropical storms develop, are still above normal. Readings are also slightly above average in the Gulf of Mexico. The combination of the warmer waters and not having an El Niño, the warmer than normal sea-surface temperature event along the equatorial regions, will likely lead to the active tropical storm and hurricane season. During El Niño years, we often see less hurricane formation as the wind shearing effects increase due to changes in upper-level wind flow patterns.
NOAA is forecasting 12 to 18 named storms with winds at or greater than 39 mph. The agency predicts that six to 10 hurricanes will form from these storms and three to six could be classified as major storms.
For the 2011 season, I see approximately 16 to 20 named storms with seven to nine becoming hurricanes. Four or five of these potentially deadly storms are expected to become major hurricanes, reaching at least a category 3 status.
In terms of our local weather, we’ll continue to have this pattern of sun and showers into early June before warmer and drier weather arrives around the middle of this month. With La Niña weakening, the outlook for this summer still looks drier and a little warmer than normal.
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