Hurricane experts predict another busy season

| 15/12/2008

(CNS): Following the end of a record breaking Atlantic Hurricane Season for 2008 the pre-eminent Hurricane forecasters at Colorado State University have predicted another above-average active season next year. Researchers William Gray and Phil Klotzbach say they expect 14 named storms, including seven hurricanes three of which will be major i.e. with winds over 110 mph.

 As Cayman Brac continues its clean-up operation after taking a serious hit from the last major storm of the 2008 season, Paloma, Grayand Klotzbach said there would be an above average risk in 2009 of major hurricane landfall in the Caribbean.

In their extended-range forecast there is a 63 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. coastline — the long-term average probability is 52 percent. This is Gray’s 26th year of forecasting hurricanes. His predictions are watched closely by emergency responders and others, but many say such long-range forecasts don’t have a lot of practical value beyond focusing public attention on the dangers.

Gray and Klotzbach agree that the predictions are more to satisfy curious and raise awareness than for scientific purposes as it is impossible to precisely predict exact hurricane activity at such an extended range.

“There is however much curiosity as to how global oceans and atmosphere features are presently arranged as regardthe probability of an active or inactive hurricane season for next year,” said Klotzbach in his report. However, he noted that the fundamental reason was to bring attention to the hurricane problem.

The hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. Last December, Gray and Klotzbach predicted 13 named storms for the 2008 season, including seven hurricanes, three of them major. In June they revised that to 15 named storms, eight hurricanes — four major. The season produced 16 named storms, eight hurricanes, with five major. That makes 2008 the fourth most active season since 1944, when aircraft started flying into hurricanes. Only 2005 (with 28 storms), 1995 (with 19 storms) and 1969 (with 18 storms) were more active.

Klotzbach said the new forecast is based on factors including warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures and the likely absence of El Nino conditions. El Nino is a warming in the Pacific Ocean that can have such far-reaching effects as changing wind patterns in the eastern Atlantic, which can disrupt the formation of hurricanes.

The experts also noted that we are in a period of active hurricane seasons which began back in 1995 and could last another decade. Since 1995, 13 of 14 seasons have had more storms than the long-term average.

They also suggest that it is not necessarily global warming that is producing greater activity. Although sea temperatures are increasing it is only in the Atlantic basin and not the Pacific where storms are significantly increasing.

“The Large increase in Atlantic major hurricanes is primarily a result of the multi-decadal increase in the Atlantic Ocean thermohaline circulation,” Klotzbach said adding that this change is not directly related to sea temperatures or CO2. “Changes in ocean salinity are believed to be the driving mechanism.”

Gray and Klotzbach will issue five more forecasts before the end of the 2009 season: April 7, June 2, Aug. 4, Sept. 2 and Oct. 1.


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