Examining the Predictions and Forecasts for the 2014 Hurricane Season

By Vernon Trollinger, June 2, 2014, Hurricane Prep, News

Examining the Predictions and Forecasts for the 2014 Hurricane SeasonWith Memorial Day over and the kids out of school for the summer, people eye June 1 as the start of the 2014 Hurricane Season in the Atlantic Ocean. In fact, the Pacific Ocean has already seen its first major storm. Hurricane Amanda quickly formed in mid May, and by Sunday May 25 built up to within 2 mph of reaching Category 5 —the strongest May hurricane to form in the eastern Pacific ever.

While that certainly sounds ominous, hurricane predictions for this year are considered to be “below normal” to “normal.” Let’s check the leading forecasts:

  • Colorado State University (CSU) expects below-average activity with 9 named storms, 3 hurricanes, and 1 major hurricane (Category 3-5).
  • WSI predicts a “quiet” or below-normal season. They predict 11 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes.
  • Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) of University College London qualifies its prediction saying the season will be “30% below the long-term (1950-2013) norm.” It further clarifies this by stating there is a 19% chance for above normal seasonal activity, a 33% chance for near-normal, and a 48% chance for below-normal season. They predict 12 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes.
  • The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) also predicts a near-normal to below normal season. They predict 8-13 named storms, 3-6 hurricanes, and 1-2 major hurricanes. NOAA qualifies their prediction with an outlook probability of 10% chance for an above normal season, 40% for near normal, and a 50% chance for below-normal.

Here’s how those predictions compare with each other.

NOAA Prediction CSU Prediction WSI Prediction TSR Prediction Seasonal Average,
1981-2010
Number of named storms
(winds 39 mph+)
8-13 9 11 12 12
Storms becoming hurricanes
(winds 74 mph+)
3-6 3 9 5 6
Major hurricanes
(Cat. 3, 4 or 5, winds 111 mph+)
1 to 2 1 2 2 3

High Turbulence, Low Temperatures

All the predictions agree on one key factor: the emergence of an El Niño wind expected (65% chance) later this summer. Though El Niño winds form in the Pacific Ocean, their warmer sea surface water affects wind patterns globally. One of these effects is the formation of wind shears (wind at different speeds and directions at different altitudes) off the west coast of Africa where most hurricane systems begin to form. Too much wind shearing forces the storm system’s heat to spread out. When that happens, the system cools and the storm may dissipate – which is what happened to most storms in 2013, diminishing what was expected to be a much busier hurricane season.

The other factor is that sea surface temperatures (SST) are relatively cool. Hurricanes need warm water to form and thrive. In spite of the memorable Polar Vortex visits this past winter, the northern hemisphere is still in a warm or “positive phase” of the North Atlantic Oscillaton (NAO). This warmth is driving the trade winds (winds out of the northeast) strongly across the tropical North Atlantic and Caribbean, stirring up the water and upwelling colder, deep water. Currently, SSTs off the coast of west Africa are well below average.

While these conditions can hamper hurricane formation, there nevertheless are always chances for hurricanes to form and eventually strike land. Hurricanes also don’t need to last long to be dangerous, either. Studies at the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory (GFDL) at NOAA looking at models of Atlantic hurricanes forming over warmer waters found that, while storms are fewer and short-lived, they now dump more rain, especially at the storm center. Further review of other storm model studies suggests that future hurricanes may “be more intense globally and have higher rainfall rates than present-day hurricanes.”

Get Preppin’

Keep you and your family prepared for the 2014 Hurricane Season by visiting the Bounce Energy Hurricane Prep Center for the latest hurricane information. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for smartphone alerts and other important news about what’s happening in your area when a hurricane strikes.

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About 

A native of Wyomissing Hills, PA, Vernon Trollinger studied writing and film at the University of Iowa, later earning his MA in writing there as well. Following a decade of digging in CRM archaeology, he now writes about green energy technology, home energy efficiency, DIY projects, the natural gas industry, and the electrical grid.

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