New hurricane forecast released as peak season approaches

The official hurricane season begins June 1, but Mother Nature really turns up the heat beginning in mid-August when tropical cyclone activity typically spikes.

But Colorado State University has some reassuring news today in its August updated forecast that continues to call for a below normal season.

RELATED: The El Niño forecast has changed, what it means for hurricane season

Hurricane season typically begins to peak in mid-August.

CSU is predicting nine more named storms through November, three hurricanes, and one major hurricane of Category 3 or higher.  Today’s forecast does not include sub-tropical storm Alberto, or hurricanes Beryl and Chris.

A normal season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

STORM 2018: Hurricane Central

Phil Klotzbach, the lead author of the forecast, said an unusually cool tropical Atlantic and increasing chances of an El Nino forming during the fall or winter influenced the updated forecast.

The CSU forecast is intended to provide a best estimate of activity to be experienced during the upcoming season – not an exact measure.

Hurricane Chris sits nearly stationary off the Carolinas on July 10, 2018. 

Michael Bell, associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science at CSU and co-author of the report, cautioned coastal residents to take proper precautions.

“It takes only one landfall event near you to make this an active season,” Bell said.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will issue its updated seasonal forecast Aug. 9.

ELATED: How El Nino boosts winter storms in Florida.

Today’s prediction comes on the heels of a report from the National Hurricane Center that showed July was an unusually active month for tropical cyclones with hurricanes Beryl and Chris.

Based on 30-year climatology, one named storm typically forms in the basin in July.

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Above normal tropical cyclone activity occurred in July, but the 2018 season overall is forecast to be below average.

Are the tropics waking up? Area near Bahamas piques interest

The official start of hurricane season is still a month away, but meteorologists are already watching something stirring near the Bahamas.

The National Hurricane Center has not identified the mass of showers and thunderstorms as anything to worry about and models are not pointing to a tropical system.

But hurricane experts with Weather Underground and Accuweather say the atmospheric set up, combined with water that’s about 2 degrees warmer than normal, has piqued their interest.

Everything you need to know about the hurricane season is on The Palm Beach Post’s Storm 2018 page.

“If this were June, they would probably start tracking it, but the climatology is really against something forming this early,” said Weather Underground co-founder Jeff Masters about the NHC. “This does have a chance of becoming a sub tropical depression or depression by Saturday. I give it a 10 percent chance.”

GOES-16 satellite imagery shows area of showers and thunderstorms near Bahamas.

For the past three years, tropical systems have formed before the June 1 start date.

Tropical Storm Arlene formed in April 2017. In 2016, Hurricane Alex formed in January, followed by Tropical Storm Bonnie spinning up in May. Tropical Storm Ana formed in May 2015.

Storms that form early in the year outside of the deep tropics are not a foreshadowing to a busier hurricane season.

In 2012, two tropical storms occurred in May — Alberto and Beryl. That turned out to be a busy year with 19 named storms and 10 hurricanes. But in 2015 Tropical Storm Ana formed in May, and there were just 11 named storms and four hurricanes.

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The first name on the 2018 tropical cyclone list is Alberto.

Accuweather hurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said he doesn’t see a trigger to spin up an Alberto this weekend, but said the weather pattern is something to pay attention to this time of year.

“Whenever you see an unusual feature like this this time of year, you take note because sea surface temperatures are warm enough,” Kottlowski said.

Masters said a reduction in upper-level wind shear as a low pressure system drops closer to Florida is one reason to watch systems like the one stirring now.

While the mass of storminess may  not become a tropical system, it could still play a role in weekend weather.

It is expected to move west and be over or near Florida on Saturday.

The National Weather Service is giving Saturday a 30 percent chance of showers with between a 40 and 50 percent chance on Sunday.

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Follow me at the National Hurricane Conference this week

It’s hard to believe but the official start of the 2018 hurricane season is just around the corner.

To get ready for the June 1 kickoff, emergency managers, meteorologists and law enforcement officials are meeting this week in Orlando to cover topics from Hurricane Irma’s traffic nightmare to an early look at what the season may have in store.

The 2017 season had three of the top five most expensive hurricanes on record with hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria.

Phil Klotzbach, a Colorado State University hurricane expert, will speak today about what’s happening in the atmosphere that may influence the 2018 season.

Also today, state leaders will discuss evacuation planning and what lessons were learned about fuel supplies during Hurricane Irma.

Follow me on Twitter @kmillerweather for updates. I’ll be participating in a session this morning on making sure the media get correct and timely information from emergency managers to relay to the public.

If you have any questions, please email me at kmiller@pbpost.com.

Hurricanes Katia, Irma and Jose all spun simultaneously in September 2017.

 

Active hurricane season reaches another milestone with Ophelia

With Tropical Storm Ophelia’s formation Monday in the far off Atlantic, the 2017 hurricane season has joined an elite club of years with 15 named storms through Oct. 9.

Just seven years on record have had so many named tropical cyclones at this point in the year. Those include 1933, 1936, 1995, 2005, 2010, 2011 and 2012, according to Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach. 

Ophelia is no threat to the U.S. As of this morning, it was 790 miles west-southwest of the Azores.

Check out The Palm Beach Post’s live hurricane tracking map. 

Visible satellite imagery of Tropical Storm Ophelia on Oct. 10, 2017

Klotzbach said Ophelia, which is expected to become a hurricane this week, marks 2017 as having the most named storms through Oct. 9 since 2012.

As far as total named storms, this season is tied now with 2016, which had Hurricane Otto form in late November. Otto, which was upgraded this year to a Category 3 after a reanalysis, made landfall in Nicaragua on Oct. 24.

The 2012 storm season made it all the way to Tropical Storm Tony, which formed in late October.

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Here’s a chart put together by Klotzbach that shows this active hurricane season as compared to record seasons.

By Phil Klotzbach, CSU

CSU issues short-term forecasts during hurricane season, including one that is calling for above normal activity through mid-month.

The National Hurricane Center is not calling for any new tropical cyclone formation over the next 5 days, but Weather Underground disagrees with that prediction.

Bob Henson, a meteorologist and blogger on WU’s Cat 6 blog, said a frontal zone that gave birth to Ophelia could form a tropical depression or tropical storm near the Leeward Islands this week.

He’s giving this area a 20 percent chance of devellopment by Friday.

“Large-scale steering will bring the system toward Florida by the weekend,” Henson wrote. “Even if it does not fully develop, this disturbance could dump several inches of rain on parts of Florida.”

The next name on this year’s hurricane list is Philippe.

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UPDATE: Tropical Storm Franklin approaching Bay of Campeche

Update 5 p.m.: Tropical Storm Franklin weakened a little as it made its trek across the Yucatan Peninsula with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph at the 5 p.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center.

Forecasters expect Franklin to strengthen over the very warm waters of the Bay of Campeche, which it will move across tonight and Wednesday.

The storm should be near the coast of mainland Mexico Wednesday night or early Thursday with 70 mph winds.

That’s not quite hurricane strength, but the hurricane center isn’t ruling it out.

“Given that it is quite possible that Franklin could become a hurricane by the time of landfall, it is prudent to maintain the hurricane watch for the southwest Gulf coast of Mexico,” forecasters wrote.

If it gains hurricane-strength, it would be the first of the 2017 season.

 

Previous story: Tropical Storm Franklin was still packing 45 mph winds this morning eight hours after making landfall on the Yucatan Peninsula.

As of the 8 a.m. advisory from the National Hurricane Center, Franklin was 95 miles east-southeast of Campeche, Mexico, heading west-northwest at 14 mph.

The chances of Franklin becoming the first hurricane of the 2017 season were lowered this morning with forecasters expecting it to only restrengthen in the Bay of Campeche to a strong tropical storm with 70 mph winds.

Check The Palm Beach Post storm tracking map.

“However, since Franklin is expected to be near hurricane strength at landfall, a hurricane watch for mainland Mexico is warranted,” the center wrote.

It is expected to make its second landfall early Thursday morning.

JUST IN: Waterspout warning off Palm Beach County this morning

The National Weather Service has issued a special marine warning for the possibility of waterspouts off Palm Beach County.

Meteorologists in Miami said a severe thunderstorm capable of producing waterspouts is about 20 miles east of Riviera Beach and moving northeast at 17 mph.

Thunderstorms can produce sudden waterspouts that can easily overturn boats and make for locally hazardous seas.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

Wind gusts to 39 mph are also possible with this thunderstorm.

Mariners are being asked to seek safe harbor and make sure everyone on their vessel is wearing a life jacket.

Suddenly higher waves, frequent lightning and heavy downpours are also possible.

Southeast Florida, and the Florida Keys in particular, is a Tornado Alley for waterspouts, according to the National Weather Service in Miami and the International Centre for Waterspout Research’s website.

The waters surrounding Florida provide warmth and moisture for growing clouds that can spawn waterspouts. Often, the clouds that form them are not thunderstorms. In fact, it doesn’t have to be raining for a waterspout to develop, and they can occur while skies are partly sunny.

Waterspouts are caused by a convergence of very light winds — a land breeze and an ocean breeze, 5 knots or less from each direction, he said.

This waterspout was photographed by Iris Fahrer off Lake Worth in 2014.

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Why a leading forecast doubled the number of hurricanes predicted this season

A leading hurricane researcher has doubled the number of tropical cyclones forecast for this season, while  another calls the early mustering of storms in the Atlantic a “foreboding” sign.

Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach said the abandonment of the climate pattern El Nino was the main impetus for an updated forecast calling for an above average storm season.

Read more of the story here and why this could be a “nasty season.” 

Tropical Storm Don satellite image taken Tuesday morning.

But the premature birth of disturbances in the main development region of the Atlantic, and now Tropical Storm Don, has also been a past indicator of a busy storm season.

“It is unusual to have frequent disturbances in the main development reason in June and July, since ocean temperatures in that region still do not support development in most years,” said Todd Crawford, chief meteorologist for The Weather Company.

Check The Palm Beach Post storm tracking map. 

Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project is now forecasting an above average hurricane season for 2017.

The sea-surface temperatures, however, are unusually warm in the area of the tropics where storms typically don’t start appearing until August through October.

“All other things being equal, this is foreboding as we head into the heart of the season, and we do expect a relatively active season this year given the warm ocean waters,” Crawford said.

The typical areas for tropical cyclones to form in July.

Klotzbach’s updated hurricane forecast now calls for a total of 15 named storms, eight hurricanes and three major hurricanes. These numbers include the three tropical storms that formed prior to Don on Monday.

The average storm season has 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes.

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“Often, our July update doesn’t change, but this year we did up it because it is just looking more conducive for activity,” Klotzbach said. “Having a lot of these kinds of systems coming off and looking decent, that tends to be a sign for a nasty season.”

But there are always caveats, Klotzbach said. The 2013 season was forecast to be above average and it ended with only two hurricanes.

“The Atlantic is always on the edge of getting a lot, or getting a little,” Klotzbach said.

The typical formation area for tropical cyclones in August. This season, more disturbances and invests have been identified in this area in July.

This is a breaking news story. Please check back for updates.

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Flood warning issued for central, southern Palm Beach County

Update 5:20 p.m.: A flood warning has been issued for areas of central and south Palm Beach County, including West Palm Beach.

Up to 3 inches of rain is possible with tonight’s storms, with localized higher amounts. Areas with poor drainage and those that are prone to flooding are vulnerable.

The warning is in effect until 11:15 p.m.

“Key to the flood threat is how long any of the heavier cells remain over the area,” said Robert Molleda, the warning coordination meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Miami. “The main band is moving fairly quickly, but showers and thunderstorms developing ahead of the rain band could prolong the period of heaviest rainfall over southeast Florida.”

Update 4:20 p.m.: Commuters will face another stormy rush hour today as showers begin in Palm Beach County.

The National Weather Service has extended the flood watch for Palm Beach County through 2 a.m. Thursday and have warned of wind gusts of up to 55 mph with the most robust thunderstorms.

A storm moving through southwest Palm Beach County triggered a special weather statement for frequent lightning and high winds. The storm, located 28 miles west of Davie, was moving northeast at 40 mph.

Update 2:52 p.m.: The National Weather Service extended the flood watch for Palm Beach County through 2 a.m. Thursday as showers move in from the west.

Additional periods of heavy rain are expected across South Florida through this evening and into the early morning hours. That’s on top of heavy rains over the past 24 hours, including more than 10 inches in west Boca Raton.

“Any additional rainfall on top of already saturated conditions could cause roadways to become impassible,” forecasters wrote.

Up to 4 more inches of rain is in South Florida’s future through Friday with water managers working pumps overtime to avoid flooding.

Update 2:25 p.m.: A significant weather advisory has been issued for western Palm Beach County as a line of thunderstorms moves over Lake Okeechobee.

The biggest concern with these storms is excessive lightning and winds up to 55 mph.

Update 12:30 p.m.: Up to 4 more inches of rain is in South Florida’s future through Friday with water managers working pumps overtime to avoid flooding.

John Mitnik, the chief engineer for the South Florida Water Management District, said canals and water catchment areas are in good shape to handle the excessive rainfall.

“The majority of the rain has fallen in the past 24 hours,” Mitnik said. “Depending on location in South Florida, areas received between four and 14 inches.”

The map below shows the forecast rain amounts through Friday.

Rain forecast totals through Friday at 8 p.m.

Previous story: A flood watch is in effect for all of Palm Beach County, with portions from Lake Worth to Boca Raton under a warning until 10:45 a.m. All of the county is under a flood watch.

A warning means flooding is occurring or expected to occur, while a watch means flooding could occur.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

The deluge of rains is expected to continue throughout today and into tomorrow so the alerts may be extended as slow moving thunderstorms lumber through the area.

The National Weather Service in Miami is reporting no major flooding in Palm Beach County, although some neighborhood streets are underwater and caution is urged during the morning commute.

Heavy rainfall on top of already saturated conditions may lead to more flooding in some urban and poor drainage areas. Some roadways could become impassible, forecasters note.

“It’s incredible what’s going on, really,” said Dan Kottlowski, a senior meteorologist with AccuWeather. “When you look at the upper air maps, it doesn’t look like early June.”

The unusual combination of a deep dip in the subtropical jet stream over Florida and leftover moisture from the now fizzled Tropical Storm Beatriz, which formed in the Pacific this past week, has left South Florida in a soggy situation.

Related: West Palm Beach broke a more than 100-year rain record. 

Kottlowski said the polar jet stream is near the Canadian border, but a cold pool of air over the Great Lakes caused a split that pushed the subtropical jet deep into the Gulf of Mexico and across Florida. There is also a slow-moving low pressure system in the northern Gulf helping pull warm, tropical air into Florida.

Leading hurricane forecast increases number of predicted storms

Colorado State University revised its 2017 hurricane forecast, increasing the number of storms predicted this season to slightly above average.

The forecast, which predicted a below average season in April, was changed in response to mounting doubts that El Nino will make a strong appearance this summer or fall.

Related: 2017 hurricane names 

Hurricane Matthew on Oct. 6, 2016

Phil Klotzbach, the lead writer for CSU’s forecast, hinted last month that he may need to increase the number of storms he predicted because of warming waters and the lack of El Nino.

Related: Indecisive El Nino makes 2017 forecast a big gamble. 

Klotzbach is now calling for 14 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher. This forecast includes Tropical Storm Arlene, which formed in April.

An average season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes. The season runs from June 1 through November, but peak season is mid-August through mid-October.

Check The Palm Beach Post’s storm tracking  map.

The updated forecast more closely aligns with the Climate Prediction Center’s forecast, which was released last week. The center is predicting 11 to 17 named storms, five to nine hurricanes, and two to four major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher.

JUST IN: Hurricane season may be more active than April forecast suggests

Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach hinted Friday that his early April forecast may have undercut the number of storms possible this hurricane season.

While his next official forecast will be released June 1, he told an audience of more than 100 at the Governor’s Hurricane Conference in West Palm Beach that changes in the atmosphere since March may bolster storm activity.

Related: Ten things to know about El Niño 

His April 6 forecast called for a slightly below average hurricane season with 11 named storms, four hurricanes and two major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher.

An average hurricane season based on 30 years of climatology consists of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

“I think indications are the season will be more active than what we talked about in our April forecast,” Klotzbach said. “The Pacific is on the warm side of normal, but not up to an El Niño threshold.”

El Nino creates stronger westerly winds that can work to shred hurricanes in the Atlantic during storm season.

Klotzbach, and others who put out seasonal forecasts, rely heavily on what El Niño is doing to make their predictions.

The global climate pattern, marked by a warming of the equatorial Pacific Ocean, works against hurricanes. Its west-to-east wind pattern can shred storms as they develop in the Atlantic basin.

Computer models have hinted at an El Niño since at least December, but its appearance would be unusual because it would be on the heels of the strong El Niño that occurred in 2015-2016.

The Climate Prediction Center had put the chances of El Niño starting in late summer or fall at 50 percent. That has since been reduced to 45 percent because of a “lack of a clear shift toward El Niño in the observational data.”

Tropical Storm Arlene, first storm of 2017

Instead there is a lot of warm water along the west coast of Africa and east coast of the U.S. While the warm water along the U.S. coast isn’t a clear predictor for a more active season, Africa is a different story.

“If that pattern were to persist, it tends to be relatively conducive for active hurricane seasons,” Klotzbach said. “Next month is going to be critical.”

If Klotzbach adjusts his forecast, he doesn’t think it will be by much, likely just bringing it up to an average season and to account for Tropical Storm Arlene.

Arlene formed April 20  hundreds of miles west of the Azores. While it was not a threat to the U.S., it was notable for such an early formation – a full month before the official June 1 of the hurricane season.

Klotzbach said early storms are not an indication of a busier season.

CSU’s forecast also considers the probabilities of at least one major hurricane making landfall in the U.S. The chances for a hurricane to hit the East Coast, including the Florida peninsula, are 24 percent this season, below the average for the last century of 31 percent.

For the Gulf Coast, including the Florida Panhandle, the chances are 24 percent, below the average of 30 percent.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center is scheduled to release its 2017 hurricane forecast on May 25.