It may be a little early to batten down the hatches, but an above-average Atlantic Basin tropical cyclone season is on its way in 2010 with a higher-than-average probability of a major storm making landfall in the United States and the Caribbean, Colorado State University's (CSU) hurricane forecasters said last week.
Philip J. Klotzbach and William M. Gray of CSU's Department of Atmospheric Science said Wednesday the early December forecast, less than a month after the official end to the quiet 2009 hurricane season, may yet lack "recent-year, real-time" forecasting accuracy, but "we believe our new early December forecast scheme will begin to demonstrate forecast skill in coming years."
According to the forecasters, 11-16 named storms will enter the Atlantic Basin in 2010, with six to eight hurricanes. Three to five "major" hurricanes -- Category 3-5 -- are forecast.
"Everyone should realize that it is impossible to precisely predict next season's hurricane activity at such an extended range," the duo wrote. "There is, however, much curiosity as to how global ocean and atmosphere features are presently arranged as regards the probability of an active or inactive hurricane season for next year. Our early December statistical forecast methodology shows evidence over 58 past years that significant improvement over climatology can be attained.
"Because our December forecasts have yet to show real-time forecast skill, we will only be providing a range of numbers and an assessment of current conditions and how we think these conditions may impact next year's Atlantic Basin tropical cyclone season," they wrote. Specific numbers won't be issued until CSU's early April forecast.
There is a 64% probability of at least one major hurricane striking the U.S. coastline in 2010, compared with a 100-year average of 52%, said the forecasters. The U.S. East Coast, including Florida, as well as the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville, TX, have about an equal chance at this point, they wrote. About a half chance (53%) exists for at least one major hurricane tracking into the Caribbean; the average for the last 100 years is 42%.
"Information obtained through November 2009 indicates that the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season will be somewhat more active than the average 1950-2000 season," said Gray and his partner. "We estimate that activity will return to levels more typical of years during an active era, such as what we have experienced since 1995."
The forecasted storm numbers "are based on the average of our statistical model, our analog model and qualitative adjustments and insights. At this point there is too much uncertainty in what large-scale parameters will be in August-October of next year to issue a forecast for specific numbers. However, we do feel that we are in a favorable position for issuing an early December forecast this year, since we believe the odds of a multi-year El Nino event are quite small."
With an above-average hurricane season expected in 2010, "the probability of U.S. and Caribbean major hurricane landfall is estimated to be above the long-period average. This forecast is based on a new extended-range early December statistical prediction scheme that utilizes 58 years of past data...We expect to see the moderate to strong El Nino event that is currently in progress diminish by the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season."
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