Checking Out the Early Predictions for the 2015 Hurricane Season

By Vernon Trollinger, May 18, 2015, Careers/Jobs, Hurricane Prep, News

hurricane-symbolThe Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1st through November 30th. NOAA generally doesn’t release its seasonal predictions until the end of May which coming on the heels of Tropical Storm Ana seems to be cutting it a bit close. Still, three other prediction services out there have already offered their prediction for this year’s Atlantic hurricane season. The good news is that it should be much like last year — below average.

sst.anom.month

Monthly SST Anomaly, April to May 2015
courtesy of NOAA.

This year’s predictions are based on two important observations.

The first is that ocean temperatures off the west coast of Africa have been cooler than normal (see map). Weather patterns in the Northern Atlantic have helped churn deeper cold water. This cold water has been upwelling off the coast of west Africa that is also the cradle for Atlantic Hurricanes. The pattern has been persisting for the past six months and has so far produced water temperatures that are the second lowest for the past 20 years.

The second observation is that the El Niño that was supposed to form in the Pacific this past winter managed to squeak into existence in March, developed in April, and is now expected grow stronger through May.

Pacific Sea surface temperature departures from average in degrees Celsius, week of May 6, 2015.  courtesy ENSO blog, Climate.gov.

Pacific Sea surface temperature departures from average in degrees Celsius, week of May 6, 2015.
courtesy ENSO blog, Climate.gov.

With warm water forecast to continue in the Pacific through the end of the year (see SST map), the El Ninõ conditions are expected to continue through fall, 2015. El Niños create disruptive wind patterns all over the globe. Vertical wind shear is increases over the Caribbean and Atlantic.

Atlantic Hurricane Formation 101

Warm water and dry, calm air is what fuels hurricanes. Atlantic hurricanes generally form off the west coast of Africa as a result of hot, dry air from the Sahara blowing out over the calm, warm tropical Atlantic water. Hot dry air evaporates the warm water, convection currents form and starts pulling in air. It begins to spin and after a while develops into a storm. As it heads west, across the warm Atlantic, it gathers more heat energy and builds in strength and intensity until it becomes a hurricane.

Cold ocean water makes it harder to fuel a hurricane. Wind shear spreads out the heat energy that feeds a storm, causing it to cool and disapate.

In fact, this year’s hurricane season looks like a repeat of last year. Once again, the forecast is for a below normal season. These forecasts come from Colorado State University (CSU), Weather Services International (WSI), and Tropical Storm Risk (TSR), Dept. of Space and Climate Physics, UCL (University College London).

 

CSU Prediction WSI Prediction TSR Prediction 1981-2010 Average
Number of named storms (winds 39 mph+) 7 9 11 12
Storms becoming hurricanes (winds 74 mph+) 3 5 5 6
Major hurricanes (Cat. 3, 4 or 5, winds 111 mph+) 1 1 2 3

 

By comparision, 2014 saw 8 named tropical storms, 6 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes.
Updates from CSU and NOAA’s National Hurricane Center will be out in June.

In the meantime, remember that it only takes one brief storm to cause a tragedy. In addition to wind damage, storms with sudden high rainfall amounts can cause flash flooding —which can be deadly in low-lying areas that are a hundred miles in-land.

This summer, keep you and your family prepared through the Bounce Energy Hurricane Prep Center for the latest hurricane information. Follow us on Twitter and Facebook for Smartphone alerts and get all the 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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