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Officials: No change in hurricane predictions

By Staff | Aug 4, 2010

Colorado State University is sticking with its earlier prediction of an active 2010 hurricane season for the Atlantic basin.
CSU’s Department of Atmos-pheric Science released Wednes-day an updated forecast for the seasonal hurricane activity and landfall strike probability as part of the Tropical Meteorology Project. This is the 27th year the project has made forecasts of the upcoming season’s Atlantic hurricane activity.
“We have maintained our forecast from early June and continue to call for a very active Atlantic basin hurricane season in 2010 due to unusually warm tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures and the development of La Nina,” wrote the authors of the forecast, Philip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray.
“We anticipate a well above-average probability of United States and Caribbean major hurricane landfall,” they wrote.
The total seasonal forecast is predicting 18 named storms, 10 hurricanes and five major hurricanes. There is a 50 percent probability that as least one major hurricane — Category 3, 4 or 5 — will make landfall on the east coast, including Florida. The average probability for the last century is 31 percent.
Hurricane season runs from June 1-Dec. 1.
According to Klotzbach, who is a research scientist with the Department of Atmospheric Science, the forecast can accurately predict the coming season about 80 percent of the time once it gets to early August. There is about 40 percent to 50 percent variability between the forecasted and actual figures.
For example, the average error in terms of the number of named storms is 2.2 from 1984-2009. Klotzbach said the average error is 1.7 for hurricanes and 1.1 for major hurricanes during the same time period. As of Wednesday, there has been three named storms and one hurricane documented for the year.
“It has continued to be really warm,” he said.
Warm waters are “associated with dynamic and thermodynamic factors that are very conducive for an active” hurricane season, the forecast states.
In 2009, El Nino meant warmer than normal water temperatures, which, in turn, created increased winds that could tear apart developing storms. With La Nina, the water temperature is cooler than normal, meaning less winds to tear apart storms and prevent them from developing into something bigger.
“We’ve seen the sea level pressures are very low,” Klotzbach said.
According to the forecast, this “typically results in weaker trade winds that are commonly associated with more active hurricane seasons.”
Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center, stressed that residents need to be prepared, regardless of what the forecasts say.
“As far as preparation is concerned, it doesn’t matter how many numbers are in the forecast,” he said. “The only number that matters to you, or anybody along the coastline, is one. The one storm you need to be prepared for now.”
According to Feltgen, seasonal outlooks can predict the number of named storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes, but they do not reveal the most vital information.
“They cannot tell you where or when the storms are going to form or, most importantly, where they are going to hit,” he said.
Klotzbach agreed.
“There’s the chance that any area could be impacted,” he said. “People need to be prepared and have a plan in place.”
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, will release its updated seasonal forecast at 11 a.m. today. It publishes two forecasts each year.
In the first forecast, the NOAA projected a 70 percent probability of 14 to 23 named storms with top winds of 39 mph or higher. Of those storms, eight to 14 were anticipated to be hurricanes with top winds of 74 mph or higher. Of those, three to seven were predicted to be major storms, with winds of at least 111 mph.