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NOAA Forecasts 'Near-Normal' or 'Above-Normal' Hurricane Season

With the official start of the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season right around the corner on the first of June, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center (CPC) straddled the fence late last week in its forecast by announcing that projected climate conditions point to a near-normal or above-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this year.

The CPC outlook calls for considerable activity with a 65% probability of an above-normal season and a 25% probability of a near-normal season. This means there is a 90% chance of a near- or above-normal season.

The climate patterns expected during this year's hurricane season have in past seasons produced a wide range of activity and have been associated with both near-normal and above-normal seasons. For 2008 the outlook indicates a 60-70% chance of 12 to 16 named storms, including six to nine hurricanes and two to five major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale). An average season has 11 named storms, including six hurricanes of which two reach major status.

"The outlook is a general guide to the overall seasonal hurricane activity," said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. "It does not predict whether, where or when any of these storms may hit land. That is the job of the National Hurricane Center after a storm forms."

Bill Read, director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center, said, "Our forecasters are ready to track any tropical cyclone, from a depression to a hurricane, which forms in the Atlantic Basin. We urge coastal residents to have a hurricane plan in place before the season begins and NHC will continue to provide the best possible forecast to the public."

The CPC said the science behind the outlook is rooted in the analysis and prediction of current and future global climate patterns as compared to previous seasons with similar conditions. "The main factors influencing this year's seasonal outlook are the continuing multi-decadal signal (the combination of ocean and atmospheric conditions that have spawned increased hurricane activity since 1995), and the anticipated lingering effects of La Nina," said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the CPC. "One of the expected oceanic conditions is a continuation since 1995 of warmer-than-normal temperatures in the eastern tropical Atlantic."

NOAA's Atlantic hurricane season outlook will be updated on Aug. 7, just prior to what is historically the peak period for hurricane activity.

Heading into the season, most of the top hurricane forecasters are looking for active storm development. Last month WSI Corp., which already forecast an active 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, upped the ante slightly in an update of its tropical forecast, calling for 14 named storms and eight hurricanes, including four intense hurricanes to form between June 1 and Nov. 30 (see NGI, April 28). WSI forecasters said an active hurricane season will arise from the continuation of warmer-than-normal Atlantic Ocean temperature anomalies into the summer and fall and the likelihood of a favorable or neutral wind shear environment on the heels of the La Nina event.

MDA EarthSat forecasters also said the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season will likely be busier than average but quieter than last year (see NGI, April 21). MDA EarthSat forecasters said 13 named storms, six hurricanes and three intense or major hurricanes are likely to form during the coming Atlantic hurricane season.

Weather forecasters at Colorado State University (CSU) recently said the U.S. Atlantic basin will likely experience a well above-average hurricane season this year and odds are nearly even that a major hurricane will make landfall on the Gulf Coast (see NGI, April 14). The CSU team's forecast called for 15 named storms forming in the Atlantic basin, with eight of the storms predicted to become hurricanes, four of them intense or major hurricanes.

AccuWeather.com meteorologist Joe Bastardi said the East Coast will be at greater risk this coming hurricane season even though the number of named storms is expected to be about average, and Gulf of Mexico interests can expect seven to 10 days with at least the threat of weather disruptions (see NGI, May 19).

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