Canadian Underwriter

NOAA predicts below-normal Atlantic hurricane season in the United States

May 28, 2015   by Canadian Underwriter

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the United States said on Wednesday that the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season will likely be below-normal.

Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30

For the hurricane season, which officially runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, NOAA is predicting a 70% likelihood of six to 11 named storms (winds of 39 miles per hour (mph) or higher)), of which three to six could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including zero to two major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

While there is a 70% chance of a below-normal season, there is also a 20% chance of a near-normal season and a 10% chance of an above-normal season, the NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said in a press release.

“A below-normal season doesn’t mean we’re off the hook,” NOAA administrator Kathryn Sullivan said in the release. “As we’ve seen before, below-normal seasons can still produce catastrophic impacts to communities, she said, referring to the 1992 season in which only seven named storms formed, yet the first was Andrew – a Category 5 major hurricane that devastated South Florida. [click image below to enlarge]

The NOAA is predicting a 70% likelihood of six to 11 named storms, with winds of 39 miles per hour or higher. (Credit: NOAA)

“The main factor expected to suppress the hurricane season this year is El Niño, which is already affecting wind and pressure patterns, and is forecast to last through the hurricane season,” added Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “El Niño may also intensify as the season progresses, and is expected to have its greatest influence during the peak months of the season. We also expect sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic to be close to normal, whereas warmer waters would have supported storm development.”

With the new hurricane season comes a new prototype storm surge watch/warning graphic from NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, intended to highlight areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the U.S. that have a “significant risk of life-threatening inundation by storm surge from a tropical cyclone,” the release said.

The new graphic will introduce the concept of a watch or warning specific to the storm surge hazard. “Storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a tropical cyclone, and it can occur at different times and at different locations from a storm’s hazardous winds,” NOAA explained. “In addition, while most coastal residents can remain in their homes and be safe from a tropical cyclone’s winds, evacuations are often needed to keep people safe from storm surge. Having separate warnings for these two hazards should provide emergency managers, the media, and the general public better guidance on the hazards they face when tropical cyclones threaten.” [click image below to enlarge]

NOAA’s National Hurricane Center will use a prototype storm surge graphic this season to highlight areas at risk for inundation from storm surge. (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA also issued its outlook for the Eastern Pacific and Central Pacific basins. For the Eastern Pacific hurricane basin, NOAA’s 2015 outlook is for a 70% chance of an above-normal hurricane season. That outlook calls for a 70% probability of 15-22 named storms, of which seven to 12 are expected to become hurricanes, including five to eight major hurricanes. For the Central Pacific hurricane basin, NOAA’s outlook is for a 70% chance of an above-normal season with five to eight tropical cyclones likely.

NOAA will issue an updated outlook for the Atlantic hurricane season in early August, just prior to the historical peak of the season.

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