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Updated forecast: Still on track for an ‘active’ hurricane season

By Staff | Aug 7, 2010

The Atlantic Basin remains on track for an active hurricane season this year, according to an updated seasonal outlook from the National Weather Service.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, released the forecast for the entire season Thursday. Hurricane season runs June 1 to Nov. 30.
The updated outlook predicts, with a 70 percent probability, a total of 14 to 20 named storms with top winds of 39 mph or higher. Of those, the forecast calls for eight to 12 hurricanes with top winds of 74 mph or higher. Of those hurricanes, experts predict four to six could be major — Category 3, 4 or 5.
The updated forecast includes Hurricane Alex, Tropical Storm Bonnie and Tropical Storm Collin, according to a prepared statement from the NOAA.
“August heralds the start of the most active phase of the Atlantic hurricane season,” wrote NOAA Administrator Jane Lubchenco. “With the meteorological factors in place, now is the time for everyone living in hurricane prone areas to be prepared.”
Thursday’s forecast is the second of two released every year. The first 2010 outlook, published in May, predicted 14 to 23 named storms and eight to 14 hurricanes. Of the hurricanes, three to seven were projected to be major ones — Category 3 or higher — with winds of at least 111 mph.
The upper bounds of the ranges have been lowered in the updated outlook. According to officials, the initial forecast reflected the possibility of even more early season activity. The new ranges still indicate an active season.
“All indications are for considerable activity during the next several months,” Gerry Bell, the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, wrote. “As we’ve seen in past years, storms can come on quickly during the peak months of the season.”
Hurricane season peaks in late August through October.
“There remains a high likelihood that the season could be very active, with the potential of being one of the more active on record,” Bell continued.
An average hurricane season consists of 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes, according to officials.
On Wednesday, Colorado State University released its updated forecast for the seasonal hurricane activity and landfall strike probability for the Atlantic Basin. This is the 27th year CSU’s Department of Atmospheric Science has released seasonal forecasts as part of the Tropical Meteorology Project.
Like the NOAA, researchers with the Tropical Meteorology Project stuck with their earlier predictions of an active hurricane season for the Atlantic Basin.
“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.
Their 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.
Officials attribute the active seasonal forecast to several factors.
According to the NOAA statement, “La Nina has formed in the tropical Pacific Ocean. This favors lower wind shear over the Atlantic Basin, allowing storm clouds to grow and organize.” The warmer-than-average waters and “the tropical multi-decadal signal, which since 1995 has brought favorable ocean and atmospheric conditions,” also leads to more active seasons.
Along with the seasonal forecasts, officials are stressing that residents need to be prepared, regardless of how slow or busy the season could be.
“As far as preparation is concerned, it doesn’t matter how many numbers are in the forecast,” Dennis Feltgen, a spokesman for the National Hurricane Center, 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.”