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National Hurricane Center

It’s still supposed to be a busy hurricane season

Hurricane season technically lasts until December 1, but this is the peak of it, so keep paying attention.

Don’t be lulled by a quiet June and July. The real Atlantic hurricane season is about to kick off.

The hurricane season generally runs from June 1 to the end of November. But the next six weeks — “the season within a season” — is regularly the most dangerous and active time for storms to develop in the Atlantic, said Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

Only two named storms have developed in the Atlantic so far this summer. Dry, dusty air from Africa’s Sahara robbed potential storms of moisture, and wind shear spurred by the El Nino climate systems ripped apart budding storms. Now, those brakes on hurricane development are gone.

The result: “A big change in the pattern over the Atlantic, going from a very lackluster quiet weather pattern to a much more active one,” said Dan Kottlowski, the lead hurricane forecaster at AccuWeather Inc. in State College, Pennsylvania. “We are thinking this season will be back-loaded.”

Last week, the U.S. National Weather Service forecast 10 to 17 named storms in the Atlantic. Last year, there were 15, including hurricanes Florence and Michael that killed a combined 96 people and caused more than $49 billion in damage. A storm is named when it reaches tropical storm strength, with maximum sustained winds of at least 74 miles per hour.

You know the drill by now. Tune in to Space City Weather and stay on top of what you need to know.

Hurricane season again

As always, we hope for the best.

The National Hurricane Center predicted Thursday that a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season is most likely this year, meaning a likely range of nine to 15 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which four to eight could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including two to four major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). Hurricane season begins June 1.

A near-normal season, of course, could still be hazardous for southeast Texas residents, who are two years removed from Hurricane Harvey, a Category 4 storm that dumped 51 inches of rain in some parts of Greater Houston. That storm damaged 100,000 homes and left around 80 people dead in Texas, most in the Houston-Galveston area.

Matt Lanza, a forecast meteorologist in Houston’s energy sector and the managing editor of the website Space City Weather, said National Hurricane Center predictions are careful not to forecast with certainty. While the likelihood of a “near-normal” hurricane season was assessed at 40 percent, the chance of a season slightly above or below normal was judged to be 30 percent.

“There’s a lot of hedging in there. That’s kind of the reality with these sort of things; hurricane forecasting is not a perfect science yet,” Lanza said. “It’s a good incentive for people to not let their guard down despite a normal to below-normal potential season.”

Experts generally agree that the ongoing El Niño event, in which surface temperatures become warmer than normal in the equatorial Pacific Ocean, portends a quieter hurricane season.

But Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist for Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project, said the intensity of El Niño is subject to debate, and the phenomenon might not suppress hurricane development as much as it did in 2018.

“What (El Niño) does is basically it changes the circulation of the tropics in such a way that you get strong westerly winds that shear and tear apart hurricanes in the Atlantic, and especially in the Caribbean,” Klotzbach said. “The magnitude of the El Niño definitely plays a role; it’s not just that you hit this magical threshold and nothing happens.”

Definitely better to have a “normal” season being forecast than a busy one. This is one of those situations where it’s not just about the quantity, since as we well know it only takes one storm to make it a very bad year. We’re still getting funds related to Harvey – the Lege put up $1.7 billion for flood control, while Congressional Republicans continue to screw around with a national disaster relief bill – so it would be very nice if we could avoid anything nasty this year. Keep your fingers crossed.

Welcome to hurricane season

Looks normal so far, but you know how that can go.

Federal officials on Friday predicted between four and eight hurricanes will form in the Atlantic Ocean this year, and up to to four of those could become a major storm.

That kind of activity reflects a “near normal” Atlantic hurricane season, which starts June 1 and runs until November 30.

Still, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials advised the public not to get hung up on the number of hurricanes predicted. Be prepared, they urged.

“It only takes one,” said Laura Furgione, National Weather Service deputy director.

[…]

The long-term hurricane season for the Atlantic averages are 12 named storms, with six hurricanes and three “major” ones with winds topping 110 mph.

There have already been two named storms so far this year, Hurricane Alex in January and Tropical Storm Bonnie last weekend. Neither caused any real problems, but as we well know, it doesn’t take a named storm to do a lot of damage. Go restock your emergency supplies, and review your evacuation plans as needed. Better to have them and not need them, and all that.

Your annual “don’t get complacent about hurricanes” warning

You should know the drill by now.

It’s been seven years since a large hurricane – Hurricane Ike – threatened the Gulf states, and increasingly there’s talk among scientists that the Atlantic Ocean may be moving toward a more “quiet” period.

Hurricanes tend to come in bunches, and since about 1995 the Atlantic Ocean has burned hot with storms, spawning monster years in the 2000s when hurricanes like Katrina, Rita and Wilma pounded Florida, Louisiana and Texas.

Before then, in the 1970s, 1980s and early 1990s, the Atlantic was comparatively quiet, with fewer named storms each season.

Now, after a 20-year, frenetic period, the cycle may be swinging back down. For the first time in a long time, sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic where hurricanes commonly form are cooler than normal. Seasonal forecasters predict fewer than 10 named storms this year, far below the 15 or more storms that have formed in most years since 1995.

[…]

[Chris Landsea, a senior scientist at the National Hurricane Center] says we need a few more hurricane seasons to know whether we really have entered a quiet period. Phil Klotzbach, a Colorado State University scientist known for publishing seasonal forecasts for hurricanes, is a little more confident.

The hurricane cycle is known as the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, or AMO, and it reflects changes in sea surface temperatures from the equator to the Arctic Circle in the North Atlantic Ocean. Periods of increased hurricane activity correlate to warmer sea temperatures, and slower periods correspond to cooler temperatures.

Klotzbach tracks the AMO closely, and it has essentially been negative – cooler than normal – since 2012.

“I would say at this point that my confidence that the AMO has flipped to negative has grown somewhat,” he said. “If this hurricane season ends up being as quiet as we are predicting, that would make three below-average seasons in a row. The odds of three below-average seasons in a row in a positive AMO would be quite unlikely.”

You can see the NHC’s 2015 forecast here. As the story and the NHC scientists take pains to remind us, it only takes one storm to make a given season a catastrophe. Hurricane Alicia in 1983 hit during a similarly “quiet” period. So remember the lessons that have been drilled into us all over the years – have bottled water at hand, know your evacuation route or be prepared to shelter in place, and stay on top of the news. And if you live in Katy, run for your lives.

Do you want more information about potential hurricanes?

The National Hurricane Center is giving you what you want.

Sometime during this Atlantic hurricane season, which began Saturday, forecasters will start issuing five-day outlooks – that is predicting where storms may form five days in advance.

The expanded outlook is one of several new products being developed by forecasters as computer modeling of hurricane formation and movement improves.

The five-day outlook will be similar to the hurricane center’s existing graphical tropical weather outlook, which provides an overview of tropical activity anticipated within the next 48 hours. This information, which has proven accurate, in text and graphic form shows areas of possible tropical development and assigns a percentage chance they will become a tropical depression or storm within two days.

The new tool will assign probability that a certain area of disturbed weather will become a tropical depression or storm over a five-day period, said Dan Brown a senior forecaster at the National Hurricane Center and its coordinator of warnings.

In addition to longer-range outlooks on storm formation, forecasters are also considering issuing warnings for systems that have not yet developed into a tropical depression or tropical storm.

With some storms, it is apparent they will develop into a tropical system, but by the time they eventually do such a system will be too close to land for the warning to have that much practical effect. An example is Hurricane Humberto, which rapidly developed off the Texas coast in 2007 before moving inland north of Galveston.

“Watches and warnings before formation are likely several years away,” Brown said. “It will likely require another one to two years of in-house testing.”

Don’t look for these until after 2015, at the earliest, Brown said.

Hurricane Humberto formed as a tropical storm in the Gulf of Mexico, and came ashore as a hurricane the next day. If there had been any need to evacuate, there would not have been the time to do so, it was that quick. If what the NHC is doing can give a little extra notice for events like that, it could make a big difference. I look forward to seeing what they come up with.