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NOAA hurricane season forecast issued

By: Dr. Jeff Masters, 4:16 PM GMT on May 22, 2006

NOAA released its not-very-cheerful 2006 Atlantic hurricane season forecast today. The outlook calls for a very active 2006 season, with 13-16 named storms, 8-10 hurricanes, and 4-6 major hurricanes. An average season has 10 named storms, 6 hurricanes, with 2.3 of them being major hurricanes. However, since an active period of hurricane activity began in 1995, the Atlantic has averaged 15 named storms, 8.5 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes (Figure 1). NOAA expects an 80% chance of an above normal season, 15% chance near normal, and a 5% chance below normal. They note that 2006 may turn out to be the 4th hyperactive Atlantic hurricane season in a row. A repeat of last year's record season is not expected, though, because tropical Atlantic SSTs are not presently as warm as last spring. They also note that some of the other factors that contributed to last year's record season are not predictable at this time--an amplified upper-level ridge of high pressure over the eastern U.S., long periods of low thunderstorm activity in the central Pacific, and exceptionally low pressures in the Gulf and Caribbean Sea region.

Figure 1. NOAA's 2006 Atlantic hurricane season forecast, compared to the historical record.

NOAA does not make any forecast of where this season's storms are likely to hit, stating, "Historically, very active seasons have averaged 2-4 landfalling hurricanes in the continental United States and 2-3 hurricanes in the region around the Caribbean Sea. However, it is currently not possible to confidently predict at these extended ranges the number or intensity of landfalling hurricanes, and whether or not a given locality will be impacted by a hurricane this season."

For comparison, here is what the other hurricane forecasting groups are predicting for 2006:

Colorado State team (Phil Klotzbach and Bill Gray, updated April 4 2006, with a new update scheduled for Wednesday, May 31):

17 named storms
9 hurricanes
5 intense hurricanes

Cuba's National Weather Institute prediction from May 2, 2006:

15 named storms
9 hurricanes

Tropical Storm Risk, Inc. May 5, 2006 forecast:

15 named storms
8 hurricanes
3.6 intense hurricanes

So, if you live on the Atlantic or Gulf coast, it's time to get your hurricane supplies ready, perhaps buy that generator you've been thinking about getting, and make whatever other preparations you've been putting off. Hurricane season starts next week, and it looks like it'll be another significant one!

Jeff Masters

I'll be back tomorrow afternoon with an analysis of the new TV ads being run by the Competive Enterprise Institute procaiming that "Greenland's glaciers are growing, not melting", and "the Antarctic Ice sheet is getting thicker, not thinner." We'll see that these statements are dubious half-truths, at best.

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