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2006 hurricane season forecast; severe weather outbreak update

By: Dr. Jeff Masters , 1:56 PM GMT on April 04, 2006

Today marked the release of Dr. Bill Gray's latest 2006 Atlantic hurricane season forecast, and it looks like we are in for another long and busy hurricane season. The team from Colorado State University (CSU), led by Dr. Bill Gray and Philip Klotzbach, predict 17 named storms (average is 9.6), 9 hurricanes (6 is average), and 5 intense hurricanes (average is 2.3). The net activity for the season is expected to be 95% higher than normal. The entire Caribbean and U.S. coast is at above-normal risk for a strike by a major hurricane, with the U.S. East Coast (including the Florida Peninsula) at 64% risk, and the Gulf Coast at 47% risk. There is an 81% chance that at least one major hurricane will strike the U.S. coast. However, it is statistically unlikely that this coming season will have as many major hurricane U.S. landfall events as we saw in 2004-2005.

The forecasters cite three main reasons to expect a very busy season:

1) While the Atlantic Ocean is cooler than it was at this time last year, sea surface temperatures remain warmer than average, and are expected to be warmer than average during the August-October peak of hurricane season.

2) Neutral or weak La Ni�a conditions are likely to be present during August-October 2006. A weak to moderate La Ni�a event is now occurring, with trade winds in the central Pacific anomalously strong and oceanic heat content in the tropical Pacific well below normal. These features will likely keep Eastern Pacific waters from becoming anomalously warm over the next few months and ending the La Ni�a event. In addition, most forecast models call for either neutral or La Ni�a conditions to persist for the next 4-6 months. When the tropical Atlantic is warm, and neutral or La Ni�a conditions are present, Atlantic basin hurricane activity is greatly enhanced.

3) We continue to be in the positive phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), the decades-long cycle of natural hurricane activity.

Accuracy of last year's April forecast
How did last year's early April hurricane forecast verify? The CSU team did forecast an above-normal year, but did not foresee the extraordinary season that would ultimately unfold. They forecasted 13 named storms (average is 9.6), 7 hurricanes (6 is average), and 3 major hurricanes (2.3 is average. In reality, there were 27 named storms, 14 hurricanes, and 7 major hurricanes. However, they did mention that a continued Atlantic Ocean warming would cause them to raise their forecast numbers for their May 31 and August 5 forecasts, which is what happened.

With this forecast, Dr. Gray hands over leadership of the forecast team to Phil Klotzbach. While Gray, 76, is at the older end of the spectrum of hurricane scientists, Klotzbach, 26, is definitely at the younger end. He earned his Bachelor's degree at age 18 from Bridgewater State College in Massachusetts, then picked up a Masters degree in Atmospheric Science from Colorado State University four years later. He has been a research associate working with Bill Gray since 2001. Dr. Gray will continue to be very involved in working on these forecasts, but prefers to concentrate on researching the connection between hurricane activity and global warming. He is a vocal opponent of theories connecting recent increases in intense hurricane activity with global warming.

Severe weather outbreak of April 2-3
At least 60 tornadoes ripped through Missouri, Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, and Tennessee Sunday, killing 28 people. Hardest hit was northwest Tennessee, where tornadoes claimed at least 12 lives in Dyer County. A preliminary damage survey by the NWS rated this tornado a strong F3, with winds of 200 mph. The tornado that devastated Marmaduke, Arkansas, was also a strong F3, and may have ranked as a violent F4 tornado (207-260 mph winds) on the Fujita scale. More damage surveys are being performed today to determine the exact strength of this tornado. Many other tornadoes from this outbreak also ranked as F3, and the April 2 tornado outbreak may match the March 13 outbreak for number of strong tornadoes. The March 13 outbreak had 11 strong F3 tornadoes among the 84 that touched down.

The last time we had two major tornado outbreaks killing 12 or more people was in 1998. With the peak of tornado season still a month away, we have the potential for the nastiest tornado season seen in a long time--to go along with what could also be a very long and deadly hurricane season.

Jeff Masters

Hailstones (pslice)
These are two of the hailstones that hit north central Arkansas from a quickly developed thunderstorm that went through Arkansas then through Tennessee causing more damage as it moved eastward
Prelude to April Showers (DaddyTo9)
Just about ready to cut loose with the season's first major thunderstorm!!
Prelude to April Showers

The views of the author are his/her own and do not necessarily represent the position of The Weather Company or its parent, IBM.

Reader Comments

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89. caneman
12:57 PM GMT on April 07, 2006
Hurricanes suck. Period. Hard to say exactly what will transpire however I would like to think that reconstruction of homes and businesses will be better than in years past.
I still see crappy home construction on the treasure coast. one would think that after 2004-2005 people would wise up and spend the extra money to have a stronger home.
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88. seflagamma
1:05 PM GMT on April 06, 2006
good info.
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87. Skyepony (Mod)
12:32 AM GMT on April 06, 2006
I don't remember seeing this research at time of publishing~ Link

Cool rain may cause tornadoes
HUNTSVILLE, Ala., April 4 (UPI) -- A University of Alabama-Huntsville study suggests cooling rain preceding some hurricanes' landfall may produce conditions favorable for tornadoes.

Researchers said the cooling rain might cause the hurricanes to rapidly weaken as they move inland, but that same cooling rain might also cause shallow warm and cold "fronts" within a hurricane system. And that would make it more likely for tornadoes to develop as the storm weakens.

"It's almost a case of pick your poison," said Kevin Knupp, a professor of atmospheric science and director of the severe weather research team at the university's Earth System Science Center. Knupp's team of scientists and students has recorded seven hurricanes and tropical storms since 1998.

The results of the research appeared in the January edition of the Journal of Atmospheric Sciences.
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86. lemmo
12:12 AM GMT on April 06, 2006
Hi MichaelSTL and all!

Cyclone Hubert building off Australia, I've started a blog for this here, would appreciate your comments and expertise, as this is all rather new to me... Thanks :)
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85. Snowfire
11:46 PM GMT on April 05, 2006
Oh, well...just click here. The system si blocking that one here.
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84. Snowfire
11:43 PM GMT on April 05, 2006
Try again:

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83. Snowfire
11:41 PM GMT on April 05, 2006
Latest SST anomaly plot:

Only the Gulf Stream area looks much warmer than normal to me. You can really see La Niña, though.
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82. seflagamma
8:23 PM GMT on April 05, 2006
Good afternoon Dr Masters and fellow weather geeks!!! Finally got caught up again and doesn't look good for anyone!

tornadoes all around my family in the Mid-south and we are probably going to be clobbered again this year with hurricanes!

but knowledge is better than ignorance any day!!!

you all have a good one and will take a peek back later.
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81. Skyepony (Mod)
7:59 PM GMT on April 05, 2006
Yeah ~ if ya don't have a weather radio now is a good time to buy one... I can't believe the features these days. This one can hand crank for charging it's batterys, NOAA, VHF(audio) AM, FM, 2 lights, cell phone charger, a siren & a red flasher.

I don't see anything really developing in the 144hr range. 180hrs out is too far to even look at the models for something tropical right now.

NOAA put out an article on the Acidification of the oceans. Hightlights~

"The pH decrease is direct evidence of ocean acidification in the Pacific Ocean," said Feely. "These dramatic changes can be attributed, in most part, to anthropogenic CO2 uptake by the ocean over the past 15 years. This verifies earlier model projections that the oceans are becoming more acidic because of the uptake of carbon dioxide released as a result of fossil fuel burning."

"The effects of decreased calcification in microscopic algae and animals could impact marine food webs and, combined with other climatic changes in salinity, temperature and upwelled nutrients, could substantially alter the biodiversity and productivity of the ocean," Fabry said. "As humans continue along the path of unintended CO2 sequestration in the surface oceans, the impacts on marine ecosystems will be direct and profound."
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80. louastu
6:16 PM GMT on April 05, 2006
The last 2 times we have been placed in a slight risk, we have ended up having a lot of severe weather in Indiana (though nothing in Plainfield). Last Friday there was an F-2 tornado that carved a path 17 miles long in Shelby County, destroying several homes, and damaging over a hundred others. On Sunday we had widespread wind damage, including "extensive damage" to the Regions Bank Tower in Downtown Indianapolis, caused by wind gusts in excess of 80 mph!!!

I personally believe that, despite being in only a "slight risk" area, we will see widespread severe weather in Central Indiana once again.
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79. ForecasterColby
5:10 PM GMT on April 05, 2006
Hubert...nice name :)

I can see this doing the same madness we've seen previously in the S Hemisphere this year, it looks excellent.
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76. RL3AO
4:01 PM GMT on April 05, 2006
another moderate risk of severe weather tomorrow
Day 2 outlook
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74. LadyMacbeth
3:42 PM GMT on April 05, 2006
cyclonebuster - I'm having to agree with ForecasterColby, globalize and HurricaneMyles - all I'm seeing in that loop is typical rain storms and storms riding a front. Even though a person can't say "way too cold" definitively anymore (thanks to the Greek storms of 2005), they're also showing no signs of significant development OR rotation.

As the old people who sit around on their porches watching tornados like to say, "I've seen worse." (LOL And yes, we really do stand around on our porches watching funnel clouds develop around here - that's how everyone knows it's actually a tornado and not just the NWS blowing smoke. XD )

StormSurfer - That does look interesting, but like Randyman I'm going to run a few more models and watch for changes in the pattern before I get excited. 180hrs is a long way out.
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73. Randyman
2:33 PM GMT on April 05, 2006
Just noticed the same thing StormSurfer on the 06Z GFS and the 00Z MRF...I want to see some more consistent runs before I buy into this solution...way too early to say if this has tropical potential, however...
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72. StormSurfer
2:22 PM GMT on April 05, 2006

Looks like something off Florida coast its 180hrs out but you never know looks like th makings of a tropical storm
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71. gcain
2:01 PM GMT on April 05, 2006
I think what the "public" needs to understand is that the probability of hurrican landfall (or other weather events) mean very little for a specific community or speck on the map...we are always preparing for the "last storm" which may or may not occur for years...they don't call these things "100 year storms" or "50 year storms" for nothing. Everyone gets excited when Dr. Gray and others make their pronouncements but, while the coast line is a probable target, specific communities cannot guage their vulnerability by those predictions. Here in Fort Lauderdale we are preparing for another Wilma--and of course that's a good thing...but the next Wilma could come in 2006 or in 2050 and there is just no way of knowing which it will be. There is little distance between "preparation" and "panic"...kind of similar to the attacks on 9/11...we spend a lot of time getting ready for the next 9/11 when the truth is that whatever is being planned by the bad guys may be very different than the attacks on that day. Learning from previous mistakes is great, but there is a danger in getting to focused what happened in New Orleans or Fort Lauderdale...next time it might be Richmond or Brunswick...
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70. HurricaneMyles
1:46 PM GMT on April 05, 2006
For anyone who was paying attention to the GFS...it's no longer projecting a shallow wame core system in the Gulf like it had been for a few days now. We'll see if it shows back up, but it was a long shot from the start.
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69. sayhuh
1:43 PM GMT on April 05, 2006
Day 2, SPC. Fabulous.

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68. Maxconvection55
1:34 PM GMT on April 05, 2006
One Season at a time folks! Lets get through tornado season first then deal with the canes. Unfortunately, I feel they will both be memorable and in a bad way I'm afraid. And what's worse is that they kinda overlap. Not much time to catch your breath inbetween!
I pray everybody comes through it all ok. As much as it all is intensly facinating, I hate the distructive aspects as far as life and property. But by the same token, with all the interest and intence scrutiny & daily scientific advances, maybe many more lives can be saved through a little more awareness. Ultimately, it's up to the individual as to how he/she reacts to the warnings. Guess the best way to some it all up is to say "Heads Up Everybody!" Stay Aware & Prepare" May you all fare well this year.

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67. HurricaneMyles
12:28 PM GMT on April 05, 2006
Yea, I have to say I see nothing that looks even remotly possible for tropical development.

The stuff down by S. America...are you just referring to the big rain storms that the get everyday?
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66. globalize
12:26 PM GMT on April 05, 2006
No, I don't see a thing potentially tropical.
There is not the least bit of counterclockwise water vapor flow. If some large convection area were to develop, it would be taken east in a hurry as well.
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65. fredwx
12:21 PM GMT on April 05, 2006
TO: hometownhero36547

No. The risk this year for your area (Area 3) that somewhere within that region will experience hurricane force or higher winds is about 13.5%.

United States Landfalling Hurricane Probability Project

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62. ForecasterColby
11:31 AM GMT on April 05, 2006
The Floridian and Bahamian systems are both just flare-ups of convection along a cold front. Almost certainly nothing.

There's nothing of interest in the Caribbean either...what are you talking about?
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60. fredwx
4:22 AM GMT on April 05, 2006
To Danm
I am not sure what Dr. Gray's opinion is regarding global warming, however, I think the truth lies somewhere in between since this is a very complex issue.

See my post on this
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58. Inyo
2:39 AM GMT on April 05, 2006
On a side note, it appears that La Nina is having little or no influence on west coast weather anymore. Despite its persistence, California has been flat out pounded by a series of unusually cold, wet storms. Usually april marks the end of the rainy season but all of the long range forecasts predict a continuation of this pattern for at least the next 10 days. To give an idea of how dramatic this is, some areas had around 50% of their average (july 1-june 30) rainfall going into March and it looks like the LA area may actually reach 'average' rainfall despite the bone-dry winter. Further north, conditions are even more dramatic with record breaking rains and high snow levels causing flooding.

Does anyone have theories as to why this weather pattern is occurring? It's no El Nino obviously, and i havent heard anything about strong MJO effects either, although i havent checked the most recent bulletin. In any event, this year in so-cal will be known as the year with two wet seasons (October was also quite wet) and a dry season in between them.
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57. ForecasterColby
1:35 AM GMT on April 05, 2006
Dennis and Emily were not true Cape Verdes, but they shared many charictaristics.
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56. turtlehurricane
12:35 AM GMT on April 05, 2006
i have updated my blog
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55. Cregnebaa
12:01 AM GMT on April 05, 2006
Posted By: louastu at 4:40 PM EST on April 04, 2006.
Also, Emily did not take the same kind of path that Ivan and Dennis took, as it did not make the turn to the North.

It did up to the Caymans, so for about 2/3rds of its path.
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54. hurricanechaser
11:51 PM GMT on April 04, 2006
Hey Michael,

On the other hand, all things being considered, I still feel that there is neither a need for a new category for the SSHS for hurricanes nor the EF Tornado scale.

In the case of the latter, I think that an F5 classification should be assigned a greater wind criteria than simply over "200 mph" when one considers we have had measured 301 mph winds from the May 1999 Oklahomas City Tornado.

In short, I would personally like to have seen a slightly wider range of wind criteria for each category than the new EF scale, but understand the need to make the revisions itself for obvious reasons as you already noted.:)

I hope you and everyone else has a wonderful night.:)


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11:47 PM GMT on April 04, 2006
: MichaelSTL mail for you e mail me
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51. hurricanechaser
11:38 PM GMT on April 04, 2006
Hey Michael,

Great work and information supplied by you as usual.:)

I agree totally with the central premise of your comments and the rationale for the new "enhanced" Fujita tornado scale.

The only reservation I have about it is that a very rare, but still possible tornado like the May 1999 Oklahoma city F5 that had recorded 301 mph as mentioned already in DR.. Masters blog a couple of days ago, and has even been listed as having slighly higher wind speeds in some "official" reports, would be a full 100 mph plus greater than the top end wind speed criteria for the new "EF" scale.

In other words, those who are claiming we need an additional category to account for more intense hurricanes like Wilma for example with 185 mph sustained winds, can make a far greater argument for the necessity for a new F6 classificaton for those like the historical 1999 Tornado.

I have to go, but I hope each of you have a great night.:)


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50. hurricanechaser
11:23 PM GMT on April 04, 2006
Hey everyone,

I need to clarify that paragraph four of my previous post referencing "subtropical type storms at best" refers to what they would've been considered without satellite technology, etc. and not to imply these Greek letter storms were not truly tropical storms which they were.:)


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11:21 PM GMT on April 04, 2006
: MichaelSTL mail for you i thinkcome to my blog
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47. hurricanechaser
11:16 PM GMT on April 04, 2006
Hey everyoe,

I have read all the interesting discussions lately in here about how we could've had even more Tropical storm formations during the 2005 season if it weren't for the African dust, more Cape Verde storms, etc.

However, I would caution you to remember that all of those factors didn't inhibit the storms from actually forming, but allowed them to intensify further west and actually helped those like Dennis, Emily, Katrina, Rita, and Wilma to reach such intensities that very well may not have occured otherwise.

In other words, all the "ifs" and could'ves" each could be applied the other way and have attributed to a somewhat less active and less intense tropical cyclone activity.

Moreover, one needs to also realize that all the Greek letter storms that formed late in the season most likely would not have been accounted for during a season like the 21 storm 1933 hyperactive hurricane season, not to mention that had these storms been identified, the NHC didn't begin naming these Subtropical type storms at best (which they would've no doubt been considered back then without satellites, radar, or even reconaissance) until the year 2000.

I only mention this to keep the past historical seasons in perspective and to suggest there was not and is not as great a disparity between the 1933 season and last year for example.

It is also important to realize that despite all the intense storms we had last season, the 1950 season STILL holds the record for most major hurricanes for a particular season.

All storm seasons prior to 1960 have to be understood that there were likely additional storms that went undetected without satellites which would still be the case today for many of the late season storms from last season, that were too far out in the Atlantic for reconnaisance flights or radar.

Likewise, even if identified by ships, they most likely would've been considered simply strong extratropical systems as was probably the case for many storms that developed during seasons prior to satellite capability that began in 1960.


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46. Maverick
11:07 PM GMT on April 04, 2006
Thanks Skyepony...that's what I figured, but just wanted to make sure.
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45. hometownhero36547
11:05 PM GMT on April 04, 2006
Does anyone have a link directly to Mother Earth? If so, please inform her that if she decides to send a few cat. 3 or higher storms... that I hear the East Coast is a wonderful spot. No offense, but we've been pounded enough on the Gulf Coast.
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44. Skyepony (Mod)
10:46 PM GMT on April 04, 2006
Maverick~ The 2nd. It's all about wind speed, the $ amount isn't part of the factors.
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43. Skyepony (Mod)
10:42 PM GMT on April 04, 2006
nice hail

Been watchin with mild interest, what was NE of PR, the convection, now 1/2 way across the Atlantic. The ULL to the NW of it yesterday has now caught up~ Link. The shear seems too high. Anyone else noticed QUIKSCAT has been down?

Agreed we might have seen a storm or 2 more without the dust last year. Also think this saved FL alot of damage. Like Katrina's Fl approach, she'd have most likely been raging had it not been for shaking out dust on the transatlantic journey.
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42. Maverick
10:37 PM GMT on April 04, 2006
I have a question about the Fujita Scale... is the F-rating based on the AMOUNT of damage done, or the TYPE of damage done? If one tornado breaks out every window in a large city and another tornado goes through and rips the roof off one house... the first tornado did more damage dollar-wise, but the second tornado was obviously stronger, which one will receive a higher rating?
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41. louastu
10:18 PM GMT on April 04, 2006
That system near South America might be worth watching if it can get away from land.

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40. ForecasterColby
9:54 PM GMT on April 04, 2006
LOL...look at the ruler in picture - "for home sewing use only" :)
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39. gippgig
9:48 PM GMT on April 04, 2006
Cindy was upgraded to a hurricane so there were actually 15 hurricanes in 2005.
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Cat 6 lead authors: WU cofounder Dr. Jeff Masters (right), who flew w/NOAA Hurricane Hunters 1986-1990, & WU meteorologist Bob Henson, @bhensonweather

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