2016 hurricane season to have 13 named storms, forecast says

Update 3 p.m.: 

The Atlantic Ocean is expected to brew up a near average number of tropical cyclones during the 2016 hurricane season, and experts Thursday cautioned that current climate conditions resemble those present in 1992 when Category 5 Hurricane Andrew struck.

In a much anticipated hurricane forecast, Colorado State University researchers issued their early predictions for the season that begins June 1, calling for a total of 13 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 mph or more.

Storm 2016: focus on preparation not the cone.

The baker’s dozen of storms includes January’s Hurricane Alex, which was unremarkable except for its untimely appearance during winter.

Also included in Thursday’s analysis is a 50 percent probability that a severe hurricane will make a U.S. landfall, just below the historical average. The chances for a major hurricane hitting the Atlantic coast of Florida are 30 percent, also just skirting the historical average of 31 percent.

“It only takes one landfall event near you to make this an active season,” said Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist with Colorado State University’s department of atmospheric sciences and lead author of the forecast.

Klotzbach took over as lead author of the report from hurricane expert William Gray in 2006.

Thursday’s forecast is notable in that it is the first time since 2013 where the season was not forecast to be below average. Seasonal averages include 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

See 2016 hurricane names here.

As recently as March, Klotzbach was predicting slightly fewer than normal storms, based partly on a frigid blob of water in the far north Atlantic that may limit storm formation off the coast of Africa if it drifts south.

“Especially in April, all of these forecasts are challenging,” Klotzbach said. “I would say the confidence level is on the lower end of the spectrum but for what we know I think it’s a reasonable forecast.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association’s 2016 hurricane forecast is expected to be released next month. The Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather put out their numbers last week, which called for a slightly above average season.

It has been more than 10 years since a hurricane hit Florida. The last was 2005’s Hurricane Wilma, which left more than 6 million Floridians without electricity, some for weeks.

Delray Beach resident Myra Goldman, who experienced the hurricane seasons of 2004 and 2005, said she’s better prepared today, but hadn’t thought about the pending June 1 storm start date until told about Thursday’s forecast.

“I’m not nervous because we haven’t had anything since (2005),” Goldman said when stopped Thursday in downtown West Palm Beach. “I think people don’t take it seriously and they didn’t take it seriously until we had problems.”

The wildcard in this year’s hurricane forecast is El Nino, which came on strong last season to help knock down growing storms with strong westerly winds high in the atmosphere. But El Nino is expected to be gone by summer.

Klotzbach said global climate patterns this year are similar to six previous years that were moving out of strong El Nino patterns, including 1992.

While 1992 was a below average season for storms, Hurricane Andrew hit like a bomb in August, devastating suburban Miami. The other years include 1941, 1973, 1983, 1998 and 2003. Only 1998 and 2003 had above-average hurricane activity.

“Even in inactive seasons, you can certainly have landfalls,” Klotzbach said. “Florida has gone 10 years without a hurricane and that streak is going to end sometime.”

Last year, CSU’s April forecast called for seven named storms, three hurricanes and one major hurricane.

The 2015 Atlantic hurricane season ended with 11 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

Update 10 a.m.: Colorado State University is predicting 13 named storms during the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season with six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

The 13 storms include Hurricane Alex, which formed in January.

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The forecast, which was released this morning at the National Tropical Weather Conference in South Padre Island, Texas, is near the median for storm activity between 1981 and 2010.

An average hurricane season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

CSU has forecast below average seasons for the past several years.

Storm 2016: Focus on preparation not cone. 

Unlike AccuWeather, which issued its forecast last week, Colorado State does not give numbers for how many storms will hit the U.S.

But, this morning’s report from CSU hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach, does say the average probability for at least one major hurricane landfall along the U.S. coastline is 50 percent.

See 2016 hurricane storm names here. 

Klotzbach is lead author on the annual hurricane forecasts by Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project. He took over the task in 2006 from noted hurricane researcher William Gray.

This past year, the duo’s April hurricane forecast said there would be seven named storms, three hurricanes and one major hurricane. The season ended in November with 11 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

“2016 will be a good test since we won’t have El Niño,” said Klotzbach, who believes the Atlantic might have entered a climatic pattern of fewer hurricanes. “It would definitely increase confidence that we are moving out of an active time for storms.”

But Klotzbach stressed at the National Hurricane Conference in March that the atmosphere doesn’t always react immediately to change, meaning an El Niño hangover might linger to help thwart storms.

Also, other factors, such as an area of low pressure he says has been a predominant factor over the East Coast have acted against storms. Low pressure turns in a counter-clockwise direction, pushing hurricanes away from the U.S. coast and to the north.

“I think the best example of this was 2010 when there were 12 hurricanes in the Atlantic and not one hit the U.S.,” Klotzbach said. “We were extraordinarily lucky that year.”

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Colorado State University’s 2016 hurricane forecast for the Atlantic basin will be released today at 10 a.m. during the National Tropical Weather Conference in South Padre Island, Texas.

The report, whose main author was noted hurricane researcher William Gray, is now mostly handled by Gray’s colleague Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist with CSU’s department of atmospheric sciences.

It’s been more than 10 years since a hurricane hit Florida. The last one was Wilma. 

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During the National Hurricane Conference in Orlando last month, Klotzbach said in an early prediction that he expected this season to be below average for storm activity. 

Today’s report will have specific numbers in terms of named storms and major hurricanes.

Last year, CSU’s early forecast called for seven named storms, three hurricanes and one major hurricane. That was updated in August, increasing the number of named storms to eight with two hurricanes and one major hurricane.

The 2015 Atlantic hurricane season ended with 11 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes. 

An average hurricane season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

 

 

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