The 2013 Atlantic Hurricane season is expected to be active, with 16 named storms, including nine hurricanes, five of them major (Category 3 or higher), according to the first tropical storm forecast of the year from Weather Services International (WSI).

“One of the side effects of the anomalous weather pattern during March, which was characterized by an unusually amplified jet stream pattern, was a sharp increase in sea surface temperatures in the tropical North Atlantic. While it is still two months before tropical season officially begins, this early warming of the tropical waters is usually an indication that an active season is in store, and our statistical forecast models confirm this hypothesis,” said WSI Chief Meteorologist Todd Crawford. “The one potential fly in the ointment is the possible emergence of an El Nino event this summer, which would create a less favorable environment for tropical development. At this point, climate and statistical model solutions suggest that this outcome is not particularly likely, however.”

The 2012 Atlantic Hurricane season produced 19 named storms, including 10 hurricanes, one of them major, continuing a decades-long high-activity era in the Atlantic Basin (see Daily GPI, Nov. 30, 2012). The number of named storms last year was well above the average of 12, and the number of hurricanes was above the average of six, but the number of major hurricanes was below the average of three.

It was the second consecutive year that the mid-Atlantic and Northeast suffered devastating impacts from a named storm. In 2011 it was Hurricane Irene, which turned out the lights on millions of East Coast residents and in doing so cut demand for natural gas by about 2.8 Bcf (see Daily GPI, Aug. 30, 2011). Last year the region was hit by Hurricane Sandy, which struck the New Jersey coastline Oct. 30 (see Daily GPI, Nov. 14, 2012).

But it was the seventh consecutive year that no major hurricanes hit the United States. The only major hurricane of the season was Hurricane Michael, a Category 3 storm that stayed over the open Atlantic. And Hurricane Isaac was the only storm to cause significant disruption to energy interests in the Gulf of Mexico (see Daily GPI, Sept. 6, 2012).

The upcoming hurricane season, which officially begins June 1, will be active, but determining which coastal regions may be hit, or if natural gas and oil interests in the Gulf are under an unusual threat from tropical storm damage, is problematic.

“At least one hurricane landfall has occurred somewhere along the U.S. coast in 80% of seasons in the historical data set, and 43% of seasons have had multiple hurricane landfalls,” Crawford said. “Although Irene and Sandy are still fresh in our memory, hurricane landfalls in the Northeast are still rare, occurring only in 25% of seasons.

“However, recent trends in steering currents during the tropical season, potentially driven by historically low Arctic summer sea ice values, do suggest at least a slightly increased threat again this year.”

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