Canadian Underwriter

Above-normal Atlantic hurricane season most likely this year: NOAA

May 26, 2017   by Canadian Underwriter

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The Atlantic could see another above-normal hurricane season this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center predicted on Thursday.

For the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, forecasters predict a 45% chance of an above-normal season, a 35% chance of a near-normal season and only a 20% chance of a below-normal season, NOAA said in a statement.

Forecasters predict a 70% likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 miles per hour or higher), of which five to nine could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including two to four major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). An average season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes, NOAA explained. These numbers include Tropical Storm Arlene, a rare pre-season storm that formed over the eastern Atlantic in April.

“The outlook reflects our expectation of a weak or non-existent El Niño, near- or above-average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in that same region,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Strong El Niños and wind shear typically suppress development of Atlantic hurricanes, so the prediction for weak conditions points to more hurricane activity this year, NOAA explained in the release. Also, warmer sea surface temperatures tend to fuel hurricanes as they move across the ocean. “However, the climate models are showing considerable uncertainty, which is reflected in the comparable probabilities for an above-normal and near-normal season,” the statement said.

The Canadian Hurricane Centre (CHC) said in a press release on Thursday that “regardless of the number of storms forecast for the entire Atlantic Basin, the Canadian Hurricane Centre responds, on average, to 4 or 5 tropical cyclone events each year, with 1 or 2 of those affecting Canadian soil and another 2 or 3 threatening offshore waters.”

Typically, hurricanes are of more concern in Canadian waters later in season, the release added, but the CHC monitors the Atlantic Ocean year-round for any tropical or tropical-like cyclone that could pose a threat to Canada or its waters. “While it’s predicted that this year will be an above-normal or normal season, it’s important to remember that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it a bad season,” Bob Robichaud, CHC’s warning preparedness meteorologist, said in the release.

Robert J. Fenton, Jr., acting administrator of the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), echoed Robichaud’s sentiment, saying that “it only takes one to disrupt our lives. Get ready now with these easy, low-cost steps that will leave you better prepared and will make all the difference: Have a family discussion about what you will do, where you will go and how you will communicate with each other when a storm threatens; know your evacuation route; tune into your local news or download the FEMA app to get alerts, and finally – listen to local authorities as a storm approaches.”

In 2016, CHC issued 44 hurricane statements about six tropical cyclones. For the 2016 season – the most active since 2012 – 15 named storms formed in the Atlantic Basin, seven of which became hurricanes, and four became major hurricanes. An unnamed depression also formed, the CHC release added. The number of named storms and hurricanes in 2016 was above the long-term average of 12 and six, respectively; the season total of major hurricanes matched the long-term average of three.

NOAA will update its outlook in early August, just prior to the peak of the season.

NOAA has also issued seasonal hurricane outlooks for the eastern Pacific and central Pacific hurricane basins. An 80% chance of a near- or above-normal season is predicted for each region. The eastern Pacific outlook also calls for a 70%probability of 14 to 20 named storms, of which six to 11 are expected to become hurricanes, including three to seven major hurricanes. The central Pacific outlook calls for a 70% probability of five to eight tropical cyclones, which includes tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes.

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