El Niño: a little too late
by Bill Clough
Aug 10, 2012 | 3730 views | 0 0 comments | 10 10 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Both the National Hurricane Center and Colorado State University Hurricane Forecast Team have revised their forecasts for the rest of this year’s season.

Both forecasts are in close agreement.

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center expects six to 11 named storms forming between now and the Nov. 30 end of the season.

Of those, three to six are expected to become hurricanes and, of those, two to three are forecast to become major storms, category three or above.

The CSU team, led by Dr. William Gray, predicts 11 named storms, of which three will become hurricanes and two will develop into major storms.

The CSU team predicts tropical cyclone activity for the remainder of the 2012 season will be about 90 percent of the average, noting that last year registered 145 percent of the average season.

Both forecast teams have slightly increased their forecasts issued at the start of the season.

“There are competing factors influencing our forecast,” explained NOAA’s Dr. Gerry Bell in a telephone news conference Thursday morning.

“The sea surface temperatures are above normal in the Gulf and the Atlantic,” he said. “This increases the chances for storm development.”

But that is offset by the forecast development of an El Niño condition in the eastern Pacific.

“El Niño strengthens vertical wind sheer in the Atlantic, which makes it more difficult for hurricanes to develop,” he said.

That both forecast teams increased their hurricane forecasts is because the El Niño condition is not expected to fully develop until late this month into September.

“El Niño is in the eastern Pacific,” Bell said. “It takes a while for the effect to reach the eastern Atlantic.”

The CSU team forecasts a 48 percent chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. coastline.

Of more local interest, the team calculates a 28 percent likelihood that a hurricane will strike the Gulf Coast somewhere between the Florida Panhandle to Brownsville.

The average for the last century is 30 percent.

The Climate Prediction Center, however, does not issue landfall forecasts.

“Accurate landfall predictions,” Bell says, “are not available until five to seven days ahead of time.”

Laura Furgione, the acting director of the National Weather Service, added that despite the number of predicted storms, much of the public is suffering from tropical storm apathy.

“It only takes one hurricane, but who knows where and who knows when?”

Furgione used the 20th anniversary of Hurricane Andrew hitting Miami to point out that, historically, the greatest killer from hurricanes is inland flooding — often hundreds of miles inland — responsible for 50 percent of recorded hurricane deaths.

Bill Clough is a reporter at the Bee-Picayune and can be reached at 358-2550, ext. 122, or at
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