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First forecast: Early projections predict nine hurricanes in ’11

By Staff | Dec 11, 2010

Researchers at Colorado State University predict an active hurricane season for the Atlantic Basin in 2011, according to a recently released report.
CSU’s Department of Atmospheric Science has released seasonal forecasts for the region as part of the Tropical Meteorology Project for more than two dozen years. On Wednesday, researchers published the first forecast for the coming season on the area’s hurricane activity and landfall strike probability.
The forecast is predicting 17 named storms, nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes — Category 3, 4 or 5. There is a predicted 48 percent chance of one major hurricane making landfall along the Gulf Coast, from the Panhandle on west to Miami, and a 62 percent chance one will track into the Carribean.
“We are looking at a very active hurricane season next year,” Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist and co-author of the report, said. “Fairly similar to what we saw last year for overall activity.”
Though this year appeared to be a quiet season because no hurricanes made landfall, Klotzbach pointed out that 2010 tied for second place as one of the most active seasons for the Atlantic Basin. Twelve hurricanes developed this year, compared to the 12 hurricanes that were recorded in 1969.
The most active year on record is 2005 with 15 hurricanes.
According to Klotzbach, forecasters had expected at least three hurricanes to make landfall in 2010 based on the data.
“We were very lucky this year,” he said. “To have no hurricanes make landfall, we were quite lucky.”
One factor playing into the active hurricane forecast is the expected lack of El Nino in 2011. Another factor is the sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic remain at record warm levels.
“At this point, we have a very warm Atlantic,” Klotzbach said. “They (the waters) might cool off a little bit, but we expect them to stay warm.”
Researchers also point out that it is an active era for storms. The Atlantic Basin has been in a cycle of active seasons since 1995, and seasons typically are active when El Nino is not present. Researchers expect active seasons for another 10 to 15 years.
“Then we should go into a quieter period,” Klotzbach said.
The region’s last quiet period spanned from the 1970s to the mid-90s.
“The overall conditions look pretty conducive for an active season,” he said of the coming year.
According to Klotzbach, the first forecast is an early outlook released six months before hurricane season begins, but people should heed the fact that an active season is predicted. Though last year was quiet, residents cannot depend on the 2011 season to be the same.
“We can’t expect that good luck to continue,” he said.
People are urged to have a hurricane plan in place prior to the start of the season, as well as have a preparedness kit ready to go in case it is needed.
“So you’re ready and you know what you’re going to do,” Klotzbach said.
Researchers expect to have a clearer idea of what the coming season may hold in the follow-up forecasts. The Tropical Meteorology Project releases a report on Dec. 8, April 6, June 1 and Aug. 3 — four in total — each season.
“We’ll have more confidence then on what we’re going to see,” he said.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 through Dec. 1.