Drs. Gray and Klotzback update their predictions for the 2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season.
Tuesday's forecast by William Gray and his team of researchers at Colorado State University calls for a very active season, with 15 named storms, including tropical storm Arthur, which formed on May 31
It is not pointed out, but reading the article you can see that they have deceased their predictions by 2 named storms including one less hurricane as compared to their update in April. As the season progresses the storm predictions can become much more accurate due to improved data.
The predictions coincide with those from NOAA and point to a higher than "normal" level of activity once again. A key point to note is that the prediction is that there is a 69% chance of landfall along the US coast as compared to an average of 52%. This means two things - 1. the risk opf landfall is higher than normal and 2. there is still a 31% chance that there will NOT be a landfalling storm this year. So if a storm does not come ashore, it doesn't mean that the predictions were wrong, they just fell within the statistics.
Once again, a stronger than normal tropical storm season is predicted for 2008. It would be very easy to dismiss these predictions due to the mild seasons we've seen in the past two years. This would be a very foolish thing to do. As the disclaimers at the end of investment commercials point out - past performance is not an indication of future activity - so it is with tropical storm activity.
Source: USA Today
We have to keep in mind how active 2004 and 2005 were and remember that these years were so active primarily because due to the natural cycle of hurricane intensity in the Atlantic - The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. We are still experiencing a time of naturally higher tropical activity and we need to be prepared for the potential for another high activity season.
Last year, the number of named storms actually reached the predicted number for the season but the number of hurricanes were below that predicted. The season seemed mild because none of those storms came ashore in the US. El Nino conditions generally kept the storm intensity low and high pressure kept the storms out to sea. 2006 was even more obvious with nearly every storm being pushed into the center of the North Atlantic before dying out.
The Atlantic remains in an extended period of active hurricane seasons that began in 1995, Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), said Thursday.
"People should remember that the 2003-05 seasons saw a total of 31 Atlantic hurricanes," he said. "Although we've had a break the past two years, there's no reason to think that break will continue."
NOAA forecasters predict a 60%-70% likelihood of 12-16 storms strong enough to be named, meaning sustained winds of at least 39 mph. They expect six to nine to develop into hurricanes — storms with winds reaching 74 mph. Of those, the forecast says, two to five are likely to be classified as major, with winds of 111 mph or higher.
Since 1950, an average Atlantic hurricane season has 11 named storms, six of them hurricanes.
Another factor that affects the level of activity and the storm intensity is the amount of wind shear. In 2006 most of the storms that did form were ripped apart by wind shear before they could strengthen. Interestingly enough, work by Kerry Emmanuel of MIT and other are now indicating that one possible effect of global warming may be that there are fewer tropical storms due to an increase in wind shear. This flies in the face of those who had predicted many Katrina type storms due to the increase in sea surface temperatures.
When Cyclone Nargis ripped through Myanmar, former VP Al Gore immediately screamed that it was due to global warming. Of course, no comment was made accounting for the fact that he had to wait 3 years since Katrina before he could again make that claim. Keep in mind also that the computer models that were used to predict catastrophic hurricane due to global warming are now predicting the opposite as new data and understanding is incorporated. A model is a great tool, but it is only as good as the data from which it is constructed. Empirical observations show that the number and intensity of hurricanes are well within historical norms.
What all this means, quite simply, is that we are still experiencing a period of naturally occurring, increased hurricane activity. Some mitigating factors may make one or two seasons seem more mild that the others but we must still be prepared. Remember when Andrew came ashore, it was a Cat 5 and it was already September. Only one storm that year but it was a doozy. In being prepared, we can react appropriately to stock up as needed, evacuate if necessary and hunker down as appropriate.
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