Colorado State University has revised its hurricane forecast, now predicting a near-average Atlantic hurricane season, officials announced Thursday.
That bring’s CSU’s outlook more in line with the national Climate Prediction Center’s May 25 forecast of a high likelihood of an above-normal or near-normal season.
CSU’s Tropical Meteorology Project team now predicts 13 named storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30.
During early April CSU forecast a slightly below-average season. That changed because of new environmental conditions in the Pacific and Atlantic oceans.
The changes include reduced chances of development of an El Niño, which cause winds that tear apart hurricanes, according to CSU.
At the same time, the Atlantic Ocean is warming, potentially helping fuel the formation of tropical storms, according to CSU.
Prior to the official start of this year’s hurricane season, Tropical Storm Arlene formed in April.
CSU researchers now expect 13 storms in the remainder of the season. Six are forecast to become hurricanes and two could become major hurricanes, with winds of 111 mph or greater.
The Climate Prediction Center expects anywhere from 11 to 17 named storms before year’s end. That could include up to nine hurricanes, of which two to four could be major, according to the center.
“So far, the 2017 hurricane season is exhibiting characteristics similar to 1957, 1969, 1979, and 2006,” said Phil Klotzbach, research scientist in the university’s Department of Atmospheric Science.
In 1969, there was a very active hurricane season, while the others had slightly below-average hurricane activity, he said.
The CSU team will issue forecast updates July 3 and Aug. 4.
CSU said the chances of storm landfalls now are:
- 55 percent for the entire United States coastline. The annual average is 52 percent.
- 33 percent for the East Coast, including the Florida peninsula. The average is 31 percent.
- 32 percent for the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville.The average is 30 percent.
- 44 percent for the Caribbean The average is 42 percent.
Last year’s above-average Atlantic season produced 15 named storms, seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes. This winter, meteorologists retroactively upgraded Hurricane Otto from a Category 2 hurricane to a Category 3 major hurricane, impacting those totals.
Last year, the center correctly predicted an above-average Atlantic hurricane season, which included historic Hurricane Matthew. Its strongest winds came within 5 miles of the Treasure Coast. The brunt of that storm hit elsewhere, particularly in Hati Haiti and the in the Carolinas.
CSU’s The university’s forecasts have been correct during 28 of the 35 years it has been predicting whether a season will be above or below normal.
Klotzbach and National Hurricane Center officials caution the public that it only takes one hurricane to severely damage an area and forecasters can’t yet say where this season’s tropical storms and hurricane may might go.
“They (coastal residents) should prepare,” Koltzbach said.
[ 2017 HURRICANE NAMES: Scroll down to see if yours is on the list. ]
This year, the National Hurricane Center in Miami is rolling out better advance warnings and graphics to help in answering some age-old storm season questions.
The most applause likely will be for a color-coded map showing when storm-force winds are expected to arrive in a particular area within five days, said Etta Lopresti, emergency management coordinator in Indian River County. It will show the potential strength of the winds and how widespread they could be.
She said she frequently fields calls during the hurricane season from people asking, “when is the last time I can get out of town or go across bridges to the mainland?” Traffic on coastal bridges typically is restricted when there are sustained winds of 39 mph or higher.
The center’s storm track map has been improved to show more clearly the extent of a tropical storm’s tropical force winds. People will know how widespread the winds are, helping them gauge what is ahead.
Bargainista tips: Get ready for hurricane season
Advisories will be issued for storms that are likely to become tropical storms. Before now, advisories weren’t issued until a tropical storm or hurricane formed. Now, the public will be advised if a tropical system is expected to quickly form so people aren’t caught off guard if a system is close to land.
Storm surge maps will be issued in advance of a storm’s approach. Last year, they were experimental. This year, they will be displayed with a new graphic for areas that could be most affected.
There are even some low-key changes, including a pronunciation guide so people don’t stumble through unusual names. It will note, for example, that “Katia” is pronounced “kah-ty-ah.” And, many people will welcome that Also, the National Hurricane Center’s written advisories no longer will be in hard-to-read all capital letters.
Officials with the National Weather Service and National Hurricane Center in Miami have been in meetings and training all weekCQ this week, discussing such things as how to communicate localized estimates of wind speed and rainfall amounts during tropical storms.
The National Hurricane Center has incorporated these improvements for the coming hurricane season, June 1 through Nov. 30.
Earlier alerts for arrival of tropical storm-force winds, 39 mph or greater
AnA experimental online graphic shows the possible arrival times of tropical storm-force winds. The graphic also predicts the probability of these winds hitting an area up to five days ahead of time. The graphics are called “Earliest Reasonable Arrival Times of Tropical Storm Force Winds.”
Storm track map improvements
Enhanced graphics include how widespread tropical force winds are at a specific location.
Until now, just a dot showed a storm’s location. This year, a color zone will show the extent of strong winds around the dot. That will help in seeing that a storm can be larger than the forecasted storm path, — known as the “cone of uncertainty,” — because the path can vary widely.
At the same time, the width of the cone (projected storm path) will be narrower because of improvements in storm forecasting. The National Hurricane Center is using new computer tracking models.
Storm surge watches and warning for coastal areas
Alerts with a map will go out 48 hours in advance of a storm for areas where life-threatening storm surge flooding is expected. Storm surges can be more life threatening than winds, according to emergency management officials. During Hurricane Matthew, some coastal areas in North Florida had up to 7 feet of water above ground level, according to the hurricane center.
Advance warnings for pre-tropical storms
The hurricane center will issue advisories, watches and warnings for disturbances that could turn into tropical storms within the next two days. These pre-storms will be identified with a number instead of a name. This change is for helping to should help keep people from being caught off-guard by changes to tropical disturbances close to shore.
The changes are the latest in years of improvements that long-time center forecaster Stacy Steward said has included a significant narrowing of the estimated size of the area where a storm could come ashore in 24 hours.
Thirty years ago, forecasters would say a storm could make landfall anywhere within a 100-mile area, which is about one-fourth of the length of Florida, from north to sout. Through the use of satellites and computers, the landfall area has been reduced to about 50 miles, he said.
Still, all advance warnings are based on estimates and probabilities, which can change, CSU’s Klotzbach said.
“There will always be a lot of challenges in forecasting,” he said.
Emergency operations managers in the state’s various counties often suggest ways to build on improving communication.
Gustavo Vilchez, emergency operations manager in St. Lucie County, said he hopes future improvements include unification of mobile alerts systems on cells phones and tablets offered by an array of agencies: counties, state and National Weather Service.
“We want it so that no matter which one you sign up for, you can get the same information,” he said.
The National Hurricane Center said none of the improvements are a substitute for residents remaining alert and making preparations, including signing up for special shelters for people with medical needs.
Another way of getting information is to go to the online site for Hurricane Preparedness Week, which this year is May 7-13.
The 2016 season was record breaking; — it was the first above-normal season since 2012. It totaled 15 named storms, three more than normal.
Chief among them was Hurricane Matthew, the deadliest Atlantic hurricane since 2005, according to the hurricane center. Matthew was the longest of 2017’s storms, lasting eight days from Sept. 30 to Oct. 7. He It was the first Category 5 hurricane since Felix in 2007.
As the storm approached the Treasure Coast, the storm’s eye wall decayed and reformed overnight, shifting the strongest winds 5 miles east of Vero Beach, said Steward. Matthew had lessened to a Category 1 storm by then.
RELATED: Hurricane season 2016 was quirky
The storm’s center came closest to Brevard County, where 11 homes were destroyed and 140 had major damage, according the to a National Hurricane Center report released Tuesday. It cause several million dollars in damage to a launch facility at Kennedy Space Center.
It killed two North Florida residents and an estimated 1 million structures had to be repaired from Florida through the Carolinas.
On Sept. 2, Hurricane Hermine became the first hurricane to make landfall in Florida since Wilma in 2005, ending an 11-year absence. It hit southwest Florida. Tropical storms Colin and Julia also came ashore in Florida in last year.
They were among the five named storms that came ashore in the United States last year, the most since 2008.
A lot more could have hit in 2016, if not for a weather pattern that has been around since 2006. An area of low atmospheric pressure “channeled” a number of storms north and out into the Atlantic Ocean, where they finally dissipated, said National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen,
The 2015 season was just one storm below normal. Another temporary weather condition kept the storms away from the United States that year. On-coming storms were countered by winds from an exceptionally strong El Niño, a long-range weather pattern rising out of warmer-then-normal ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean’s equatorial region.
The El Niño faded before the 2016 season and hasn’t returned. The chance this year for another El Niño is low, forecasters said
Southeast Florida historically has been the most likely to get hit, based on 110 years of National Hurricane Center records.
Predicting hurricanes is challenging, said hurricane researcher Philip Klotzbath. Hurricanes can be affected by everything from clouds of sand blowing east west from Africa’s massive Sahara Desert to the amount of cold water flowing south from the North Atlantic Ocean.
“Keeping up with the changing global climate system … is a full-time job,” he said.
“In general our forecasts are successful at forecasting whether the season will be more or less active than average,” he said.
Because of the uncertainties in forecasting, the National Hurricane Center doesn’t issue its annual season forecast until May 31, the eve of the hurricane season’s start.
Usually, the most hurricanes occur from mid-August to mid-October. That period accounts for 78 percent of the total number of days when tropical storms are active, said Feltgen. That is because that’s when environmental conditions are more favorable for storms, including warm ocean temperatures.
County-by-county list of direct hits based on historical records. This research on hurricane trends is over the 110-year period from 1900 to 2010.
Source: National Hurricane Center, Miami
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