2016 hurricane season, 97% chance of named storm hitting U.S.

Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science stopped doing quantitative December hurricane forecasts for pending storm seasons in 2012.

But researchers are still issuing a more qualitative discussion of the factors that will influence the 2016 hurricane season, including the climatological chances that the U.S. and individual states will get hit by a tropical storm, hurricane or major hurricane.

This year’s discussion, released last week, relies on two main events for its hurricane predictions; whether El Nino will remain a strong influence through summer next year and the potency of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation (AMO).

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El Nino is known to knock down hurricanes by creating strong westerly wind shear, such as we saw during the 2015 hurricane season.

The AMO is a longer-term phenomenon that impacts sea-surface temperatures. Warm sea surface temperatures are like candy to growing hurricanes.

While CSU’s study, which was written by hurricane expert Philip Kotzbach with assistance from William Gray, looks generally at four scenarios affecting hurricane frequency and strength, it also gives climatological landfall probabilities for 2016. The probabilities are long term chances, taking into account data from the 20th century.

“While we are not issuing a quantitative forecast in this early outlook, we can still provide interested readers with the climatological probabilities of landfall for various portions of the United States coastline,” Klotzbach wrote.

For all of the U.S., Klotzbach said there is a 97 percent chance of a named storm making landfall. That could mean a tropical storm, hurricane or major hurricane.

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Last week’s discussion also gives the climatological probabilities that a hurricane or major hurricane will impact specific states.

Climatological chance for a hurricane landfall in 2016
Climatological probabilities for a hurricane landfall in 2016.

Klotzbach notes that none of the 27 major hurricanes that have formed since Wilma in 2005 made a U.S. landfall.

“The 10-year period that the U.S. has gone without any major landfalls exceeds the previous record of eight years set between 1861 and 1868,” he wrote.

But why?

“There is obviously a luck component that has played a significant role,” Klotzbach said.

He explains another part of why in a blog for the Capital Weather Gang written with Brian McNoldy. Basically an exploration of how an east coast low pressure system may be steering hurricanes away from the U.S.

Florida is singled out as being “remarkably lucky” to have not been impacted by a hurricane since Wilma. Klotzbach said there has been a marked decrease in hurricanes hitting the Florida peninsula over the past 50 years.

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Bob Henson, a meteorologist and blogger for Weather Underground said CSU’s recent discussion makes him even more “eager to see how this very uncertain hurricane season will unfold.”

“As one would expect, the skill of these outlooks steadily improves as the hurricane season nears,” he wrote in a blog last week.  “Even if it’s too soon right now to expect an accurate forecast for 2016, the latest thoughts from CSU make me even more eager to see how this very uncertain hurricane season will unfold.”

Forecasters alert to dense fog in Palm Beach County

The National Weather Service issued a special weather statement this morning warning of dense fog for all of Palm Beach County.

Visibility is less than a half mile in coastal and western Palm Beach County.

Drivers should use low beam headlights and slow down while driving through the fog early this morning.

The statement is in effect through 7 a.m. but fog could linger until shortly after sunrise.

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Light fog on State Road 7 extension north of Okeechobee Boulevard Tuesday morning, April 2, 2013. (Lannis Waters/The Palm Beach Post)

Weather observations at Palm Beach International Airport reflect the fog started to form just before 5 a.m. as northwest winds stilled to 3 mph and the air temperature and dew point temperature met at 66 degrees.

The relative humidity shot to 100 percent and cloud heights plummeted from 3,000 feet to near ground level. Without strong winds or the sun’s dispersing rays, the low fog will linger.

The National Weather Service sends out a special weather statement, like the one this  morning, when visibility is reduced to one-half mile. If visibility dips to one-fourth mile, a fog advisory is issued.

Dense fog is rare in Florida. Between 2000 and 2011, NOAA’s storm events database recorded just 35 days during which dense fog was present statewide. But those incidences can be lethal.

The database lists five deaths and 17 injuries directly attributable to dense fog, while Palm Beach Post archives list multiple car accidents in which fog was involved.

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Dense fog obscures islands in the Intracoastal this morning. Photo by Eddie Ritz

In March 2007, Boynton Beach resident Anita Zoet died after her car plowed into an 18-wheeler on Florida’s Turnpike in heavy fog. Four others were also killed in the accident that included a 12-vehicle pileup.

A year earlier, two people were killed and 20 injured in western Palm Beach County when smoke combined with fog to reduce visibility on State Road 80 and U.S. 27.

Meteogram at PBIA shows where dew point temperature and air temperature meet, helping to initiate fog.
Meteogram at PBIA shows where dew point temperature and air temperature meet, helping to initiate fog.
Dense fog this morning obscures islands in the Intracoastal between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach. Photo by Eddie Ritz
Dense fog this morning starts to break up shortly after sunrise, but still obscures islands in the Intracoastal between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach. Photo by Eddie Ritz
Dense fog this morning obscures islands in the Intracoastal between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach. Photo by Eddie Ritz
Dense fog this morning obscures islands in the Intracoastal between West Palm Beach and Palm Beach. Photo by Eddie Ritz

Will South Florida see the sun this week?

South Florida will see the sun again this week after cloudy to partly cloudy skies have blanketed the area since at least Dec. 1.

By Friday, rain chances are expected to be down to 10 percent, and skies are forecast to be mostly sunny, according to the National Weather Service.

Saturday’s forecast is “sunny.”

“It will be a nice change,” said David Ross, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. “I’m sure it will be welcome.”

According to a weather station at the Palm Beach International Airport, every day this month has been either partly cloudy or cloudy. In technical terms, “partly cloudy” is a day when more than half of the sky is cloudless.

By Saturday the stubborn front that has brought so much rain is pushed south of Cuba.
By Saturday the stubborn front that has brought so much rain is pushed south of Cuba.

“Cloudy” is when 7/8 or more of the sky is covered by clouds.

The stubborn front stalled in the Florida Straits has been responsible for most of the clouds and rain.

Since Dec. 1, 5 inches of rain has fallen at Palm Beach International Airport. That’s 3 to 4 inches above normal for the first week of December.

A high pressure system is expected to push through later this week that will get rid of that soggy front to our south.

“By Saturday and Sunday, we’ll have the best couple of days we’ve had in several weekends,” said Arlena Moses, a NWS meteorologist in Miami. “If you look to Central and North Florida, they don’t have a cloud in the sky.”

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