Hurricane center watching new area in Caribbean, Ireland eyeing Cat 2 Ophelia

The National Hurricane Center is watching a new area east of the Lesser Antilles for possible tropical development.

The strong tropical wave, which is not expected to impact the U.S., is a mass of showers and thunderstorms for the time being, and forecasters are giving it just a 30 percent chance of developing over five days.

While upper-level winds are working against anything forming in the near term, conditions for strengthening improve next week, forecasters said.

Check The Palm Beach Post’s live storm tracking map.

The next name on the 2017 hurricane list is Philippe.

Hurricane season lasts through Nov. 30.

In the eastern Atlantic, Hurricane Ophelia is now a Category 2 hurricane moving 8 mph to the east-northeast.

The odd storm, 615 miles southwest of the Azores, is expected to reach Ireland early next week,  transitioning to a hurricane-force post tropical cyclone just before a possible landfall.

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Residents in Ireland and the United Kingdom are should monitor the progress of Ophelia for the next several days, forecasters warned.

Category 2 Hurricane Ophelia is seen top right in this satellite image with the new area of possible development in to the bottom center. RAMB/CIRA slider

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UPDATE: Gert becomes Category 2 hurricane

Update 4:30 p.m.: Hurricane Gert is now a Category 2 storm with maximum sustained winds of 100 mph.

The storm, which is no threat to land, is the season’s first Cat 2 storm. It is expected to begin weakening in the next 12 hours.

Update 2:30 p.m.: Two areas being watched by the hurricane center had their chances of development increased to 50 percent over five days as of the 2 p.m. forecast.

Invests 91L and 92L, which are between the Lesser Antilles and the Cabo Verde Islands, were previously at 40 percent.

The third disturbance, a tropical wave off the coast of Africa, has a 40 percent chance of development over five days.

Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground, said having three potential tropical cyclones in the Atlantic’s “main development region” is unusual, even as we enter the peak of the season.

The main development region is between the Lesser Antilles Islands and the coast of Africa.

“Since 2014, when the NHC first began issuing its 5-day Tropical Weather Outlook, I could find only three occasions when they highlighted as many as three areas of concern in the entire Atlantic,” Masters said. “None of the cases had all three systems located in the MDR.”

Previous story: The National Hurricane Center is continuing to monitor three potential tropical cyclones in the Atlantic as they move swiftly west toward the Caribbean, Bahamas and U.S. coast.

At the same time, Hurricane Gert is strengthening with winds up to 90 mph this morning and expected to top out at 100 mph. Gert is no threat to land, and is moving northeast out to sea at 21 mph.

Check The Palm Beach Post’s hurricane page for preparation information and storm track. 

All three tropical disturbances now have a 40 percent chance of development over five days.

Of the three disturbances, two have earned the designation of “invest”, which is short for investigation and allows the hurricane center to start gathering more data on them.

As of the 8 a.m. advisory, Invest 91L, which is about 900 miles east of Lesser Antilles, was given a 40 percent chance of development over five days as of the 8 a.m. update.

Invest 92L, which is several hundred miles west of the Cabo Verde Islands, also has a 40 percent chance of development over five days.

The third disturbance, which is a tropical wave that just exited the coast of Africa with disorganized thunderstorms and showers, had its chances of development increased this morning to 40 percent over five days.

The next name on the tropical cyclone list this year is Harvey, followed by Irma.

All three areas remain below a level of dry Saharan air, which can kill a developing cyclone if it gets sucked into its spin. Cyclones need a warm, moist atmosphere to grow, and Saharan air lowers relative humidity levels in the upper atmosphere.

Invest 91L and 92L, followed by a tropical wave that was given a 40 percent chance of development this morning. The red and orange colors denote areas of Saharan dust and dry air, which are harmful to developing systems.

While it’s still too early to know how these systems will grow and move, at least one set of models keeps 91L on a more southerly track mimicking Hurricane Franklin’s path through the Caribbean.

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Invest 91L

The disturbance behind it, however, may be on a more northerly path.

Jeff Masters, co-founder of Weather Underground, said 92L is worth watching.

Satellite images on Tuesday morning showed that this eastern twin of 91L also had a limited amount of disorganized heavy thunderstorm activity, but a respectable amount of spin,” he wrote in his Category 6 blog.

Warm water and low wind shear could be aiding 92L as it makes its way west at 15 to 20 mph.

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Active hurricane season forecast holds, 61 percent chance of Florida landfall

Colorado State University issued its updated tropical cyclone forecast today continuing to predict an active season with a 61 percent chance Florida will get hit by a hurricane.

That’s 10 percent higher than the historical average of a 51 percent chance of Florida getting hit.

The forecast calls for a total of 16 named storms, including the five that have already formed, and eight hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.

Check The Palm Beach Post storm tracking map. 

The CSU forecast originally called for an average storm season, but doubled the number of hurricanes it is predicting after El Nino failed to appear.

So far, the 2017 hurricane season is exhibiting characteristics similar to 1953, 1969, 1979, 2001 and 2004.

“In general, most of these seasons experienced somewhat above-average activity, with 2004 being an extraordinarily active season,” said Phil Klotzbach, research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science and lead author of the report.

Today’s forecast comes as two systems brew in the Atlantic basin, both with high chances of forming over the next five days.

A large area of disorganized showers and thunderstorms several hundred miles south and southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands has an 80 percent chance of formation as it moves west-northwest at at about 15 mph.

A second disturbance in the eastern Caribbean Sea was given a 60 percent chance of development over the next five days.

CSU’s forecast says there is a 62 percent chance that a major hurricane of Category 3 strength or higher will hit the entire U.S. coastline. The historical chances are 52 percent.

Chances for a major hurricane hitting the U.S. East Coast, including Florida, are 38 percent. Historical chances are 31 percent.

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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.

Breaking: CSU releases 2017 hurricane forecast

Colorado State University released its annual hurricane season forecast this morning during the National Tropical Weather Conference in San Antonio.

The forecast, written by storm experts Phil Klotzbach and Michael Bell, calls for a slightly below average season in the Atlantic basin as the possibility of weak to moderate El Nino conditions build.

Related: 10 things to know about El Nino

Hurricane Jeanne hits Florida on Sept. 25, 2004

With that climate pattern in mind, CSU is forecasting 11 named storms, 4 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher. Hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through November.

Check out The Palm Beach Post storm tracking map.

“As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them,” the report notes. “They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.”

In 2016, CSU’s April forecast called for 13 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 mph or more. By the end of November, there were 15 named storms, and seven hurricanes.

A normal hurricane season has 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes.

The report also outlines the chances that at least one major hurricane will make landfall in the U.S.

  • For the entire U.S. coastline, the chances of a Category 3, 4 or 5 storm making landfall are 42 percent. The average for the past century was 52 percent.
  • For the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida peninsula, the chances of a major hurricane landfall are 24 percent. The average for the past century is 31 percent.
  • For the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle to Brownsville, the chances are 24 percent. The average for the past century is 30 percent.

“Everyone should realize that it is impossible to precisely predict this season’s hurricane activity in early April,” the CSU report says. “There is, however, much curiosity as to how global ocean and atmosphere features are presently arranged as regards to the probability of an active or inactive hurricane season for the coming year.”

AccuWeather released its 2017 hurricane forecast Wednesday, also predicting a below average season based on the El Nino prediction.

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

Related: Will a hurricane be named after you this season?

The Pennsylvania-based company is forecasting 10 named storms, including five hurricanes and three major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.

“The big factor is going to be the fact that we now believe El Niño will come on board some time during the summer and will continue all the way through the rest of the hurricane season,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said.

Clinton, Gore link Hurricane Matthew strength and damage to climate change

Hurricane Matthew’s rapid intensification and storm surge power were blamed Tuesday on climate change by Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore.

The two campaigned in Miami during a Florida swing that also brought former President Bill Clinton to Belle Glade.

Hillary Clinton, whose visit was geared toward how she would address climate change and the challenges of a warming planet, said that Hurricane Matthew was more damaging because of sea level rise.

Check The Palm Beach Post radar map.

MIAMI, FL - OCTOBER 11: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore campaign together at the Miami Dade College - Kendall Campus, Theodore Gibson Center on October 11, 2016 in Miami, Florida. Clinton continues to campaign against her Republican opponent Donald Trump with less than one month to go before Election Day. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL – OCTOBER 11: Democratic presidential nominee former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and former Vice President Al Gore campaign together at the Miami Dade College – Kendall Campus, Theodore Gibson Center on October 11, 2016 in Miami, Florida. Clinton continues to campaign against her Republican opponent Donald Trump with less than one month to go before Election Day. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“We’ve always had hurricanes and they’ve always been destructive, but hurricane Matthew was more destructive,” she said during a speech at Miami Dade College. “Right now, the ocean is at or near record-high temperatures and that contributed to record rainfall and flash flooding. Sea levels have already risin one fort in much of the southeast, which means that Matthew’s storm surge was higher and the flooding was more severe.”

In the 20th century, sea levels rose 5.5 inches globally.

Current rates have accelerated to about a foot — 12 inches — per 100 years, according to a study published in February in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences. That’s compared with pre-industrialization times, when the seas rose only about 1 to 1.5 inches per century.

Read more about climate change here. 

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump told the Miami Herald in August that he is not a “big believer in man-made climate change.”

“There could be some impact, but I don’t believe it’s a devastating impact,” he told the Herald.

The National Hurricane Center has not evaluated the extent of storm surge that came ashore during Matthew, but predicted more than six feet of water could flood into areas of North Florida in a worse case scenario during Matthew.

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Hurricane Matthew approaches Florida

Matthew-driven storm surge and pounding waves took out portions of State Road A1A in Flagler Beach, sent brackish Intracoastal water flooding over seawalls in historic St. Augustine and tore apart a portion of the Jacksonville Beach Fishing Pier.

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Marine Way in Delray Beach, Nov. 25, 2015 during full moon high tide.
Marine Way in Delray Beach, Nov. 25, 2015 during full moon high tide.

Gore took the climate change and hurricane argument further, saying warmer sea surface temperatures were responsible for Matthew’s rapid intensification into a Category 5 hurricane.

Matthew was elevated to hurricane status at 2 p.m. Oct. 29 and ramped up to a intimidating 160 mph tropical cyclone in 33 hours.

“That’s extremely unusual and the reason that happened is the climate crisis is trapping so much extra heat in the Earth’s system and it’s warming the oceans,” Gore said. “More than 90 percent of heat energy goes into the oceans so the southern Caribbean was much warmer than normal and the Gulf Stream is way warmer than normal for this time of year.” capture

Sea-surface temperatures are running about 0.5 to 1 degrees Celsius warmer than the historic norm in the Caribbean and along the east coast of Florida.

Scientists generally agree that the planet has warmed, but there is less consensus about whether the temperature hike is responsible for stronger or more hurricanes.

James Elsner, a climatology professor and chair of the geography department at Florida State University, said warmer seas can lead to more intense hurricanes but not a higher quantity of storms.

“The fact that Matthew intensified so rapidly is something we would anticipate as the oceans get warmer,” Elsner said. “Clearly the warm waters are needed for storms to continue to intensify so, yes, warm waters contributed to intensification.”

Phil Klotzbach, a hurricane expert with Colorado State University, said the structure of hurricanes is more complicated than just saying warming seas mean stronger storms.

“We just went through the longest period we’ve had since the 30’s with no Cat 5 in the Atlantic,” he said. “Major hurricanes are way down from what they were previously.”

JACKSONVILLE BEACH, FL - OCTOBER 07: Large waves caused by Hurricane Matthew pound the Jacksonville Pier and was damaged by the storm, October 7, 2016 in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Hurricane Matthew passed by offshore bringing heavy winds and flooding. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)
JACKSONVILLE BEACH, FL – OCTOBER 07: Large waves caused by Hurricane Matthew pound the Jacksonville Pier and was damaged by the storm, October 7, 2016 in Jacksonville Beach, Florida. Hurricane Matthew passed by offshore bringing heavy winds and flooding. (Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)

Klotzbach succeeded William Gray as the lead author of CSU’s annual hurricane forecast acknowledges that Gray was a “climate skeptic” as far as how much humans are contributing to a warmer climate.

But Klotzbach said the arguments trying to tie global warming to hurricanes get “very tortuous.”

“The Atlantic has been plenty hot all year and we haven’t had anything until Matthew,” he said. “There is a lot more that goes into this than saying the waters are warmer. It’s a very subtle process and neither Al Gore nor Hillary Clinton really understands hurricanes.”

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Biggest threat from Hurricane Matthew is wind, northeast county at highest risk

National Weather Service forecasters in Miami said the biggest threat from Hurricane Matthew will be high wind.

While storm surge and rain is a concern, they are not expected to be as big of a threat as possible hurricane force winds.

COMPLETE LIST OF SHELTERS, EMERGENCY RESOURCES

As of 8 a.m., wind gusts are expected to reach more than 111 mph in some areas of coastal Palm Beach County, especially in areas of Jupiter and Tequesta.

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Tropical storm winds are between 39 mph and 73 mph.

Hurricane winds are 74 mph- plus.

Palm Beach County wind forecasts:

What kind of winds you can expect in Jupiter/Palm Beach Gardens and when: 

  • Tonight: 16 mph sustained, 23 mph gusts
  • Thursday 6 a.m.: 22 mph sustained, 31 mph gusts
  • Thursday noon: 33 mph sustained, 47 mph gusts
  • Thursday 9 p.m.: 59 mph sustained, 76 mph gusts
  • Thursday midnight: 78 mph sustained, 97 mph gusts
  • Friday 2 a.m.: 91 mph sustained, 111 mph gusts
  • Friday 6 a.m.: 55 mph sustained, 74 mph gusts
  • Friday noon: 25 mph sustained, 36 mph gusts
  • Friday 5 p.m.: 20 mph sustained, 28 mph gusts

What kind of winds you can expect in West Palm Beach and when: 

  • Tonight: 15 mph sustained, 25 mph gusts
  • Thursday 6 a.m.: 20 mph sustained, 28 mph gusts
  • Thursday noon: 34 mph sustained, 50 mph gusts
  • Thursday 9 p.m.: 52 mph sustained, 72 mph gusts
  • Thursday midnight: 64 mph sustained, 84 mph gusts
  • Friday 2 a.m.: 68 mph sustained, 90 mph gusts
  • Friday 6 a.m.: 45 mph sustained, 63 mph gusts
  • Friday noon: 24 mph sustained, 33 mph gusts
  • Friday 5 p.m.: 17 mph sustained, 24 mph gusts

What kind of winds you can expect in Boynton Beach and when: 

  • Tonight: 17 mph sustained, 24 mph gusts
  • Thursday 6 a.m.: 22 mph sustained, 31 mph gusts
  • Thursday noon: 33 mph sustained, 47 mph gusts
  • Thursday 9 p.m.: 55 mph sustained, 74 mph gusts
  • Thursday midnight: 62 mph sustained, 80 mph gusts
  • Friday 2 a.m.: 59 mph sustained, 76 mph gusts
  • Friday 6 a.m.: 40 mph sustained, 56 mph gusts
  • Friday noon: 25 mph sustained, 36 mph gusts
  • Friday 5 p.m.: 17 mph sustained, 24 mph gusts

What kind of winds you can expect in Boca Raton and when: 

  • Tonight: 18 mph sustained, 25 mph gusts
  • Thursday 6 a.m.: 23 mph sustained, 32 mph gusts
  • Thursday noon: 33 mph sustained, 47 mph gusts
  • Thursday 9 p.m.: 53 mph sustained, 72 mph gusts
  • Thursday midnight: 56 mph sustained, 75 mph gusts
  • Friday 2 a.m.: 51 mph sustained, 71 mph gusts
  • Friday 6 a.m.: 30 mph sustained, 41 mph gusts
  • Friday noon: 25 mph sustained, 36 mph gusts
  • Friday 5 p.m.: 18 mph sustained, 25 mph gusts

What kind of winds you can expect in Wellington and when: 

  • Tonight: 14 mph sustained, 20 mph gusts
  • Thursday 6 a.m.: 15 mph sustained, 21 mph gusts
  • Thursday noon: 26 mph sustained, 37 mph gusts
  • Thursday 9 p.m.: 46 mph sustained, 64 mph gusts
  • Thursday midnight: 55 mph sustained, 74 mph gusts
  • Friday 2 a.m.: 55 mph sustained, 74 mph gusts
  • Friday 6 a.m.: 39 mph sustained, 55 mph gusts
  • Friday noon: 22 mph sustained, 31 mph gusts
  • Friday 5 p.m.: 15 mph sustained, 21 mph gusts

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Hurricane center increases tropical development chances to 60 percent

Update 7:55 p.m.: The chances that a tropical system will develop over the next five days was increased to 60 percent by the National Hurricane Center.

The special tropical update, which was issued at 7:40 p.m., said a newly formed area of low pressure has emerged a few hundred miles northeast of the Bahamas.

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The system is supposed to move slowly west-northwest toward the southeastern U.S. That will put it into warmer waters and weaker wind shear, which could allow it to more fully develop.

Center forecasters also increased the chance of development through 48 hours to 30 percent.

The next tropical outlook will be issued by 9 a.m. Thursday.

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There is no guarantee something will form.

“To get a defined depression we need a little bit better circulation to happen, and that very well could happen as we head into the holiday weekend,” said Dan Kottlowski, a hurricane expert with AccuWeather. “The expectation now is that it will track northwest from the northern Bahamas and be off the coast of Jacksonville Friday or Saturday.”

From there, it could head north, or stall out, spinning for a while before moving out to sea, Kottlowski said.

“There is definitely a chance it could be a tropical storm, but there’s still a lot of uncertainty and the process in this case takes a long time,” he said.

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No forecasters were expecting the system to gain much strength, but it was dubbed Invest 91-L, meaning it has the potential to gain tropical characteristics. The National Hurricane Center numbers areas to “investigate” beginning with 90. The “L” represents the North Atlantic basin. Invest 90-L became Hurricane Alex in January.

Despite the questionable future of 91-L, Florida’s National Weather Service forecasting offices began taking note of the system Wednesday, distributing short forecasts on potential Memorial Day weekend weather.

For South Florida, the system may prove a boon. Depending on its location, Palm Beach, Broward and Miami-Dade counties could end up in the southwest quadrant of the storm where a more westerly flow would mean drier air.

“Sometimes you get dry air that wraps into these things and it may even reduce the storms a little for us,” Ippoliti said. “The north side of the system, if it comes ashore, would bring the heavier rain toward Myrtle Beach and the Outer Banks.”

Previous story: The National Hurricane Center has increased the chances of a tropical system developing in the next five days to 50 percent.

A special tropical weather outlook issued at 8:15  this morning says environmental conditions are expected to become more favorable for a subtropical to tropical system to form by Friday.

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Download the Palm Beach Post WeatherPlus app. 

The system would be named Bonnie if it gained tropical storm force, but meteorologists aren’t ready yet to declare that a possibility.

While just a grouping of showers and thunderstorms now, wind shear, which is deadly to tropical storms, is expected to weaken over the next few days. Hurricane Center forecasters believe the system will move west-northwest toward the U.S. southeast coast over the weekend.

Hurricane season doesn’t officially start until June 1.

Why a tropical system could be good for South Florida’s Memorial Day weekend. 

Sea surface temperatures are typically need to be greater than 26 degrees Celsius for tropical cyclone development. Near the coast, this graphic shows them as warm as 28 degrees.
Sea surface temperatures are typically need to be greater than 26 degrees Celsius for tropical cyclone development. Near the coast, this graphic shows them as warm as 28 degrees.

The next tropical weather outlook will be issued by 8 p.m. The chances of something forming within the next two days is low at just 10 percent.

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Mark Sudduth, a geographer and founder of Hurricanetrack.com, said the potential system is the result of a frontal boundary “tangling up with an upper level piece of energy or trough.”

Even if the system develops, Sudduth said he doesn’t think it will be more than a rain maker.

“Water temps in the region are only marginal for development though they do get warmer in the Gulf Stream closer to the coast,” Sudduth wrote in a blog this morning.  “If this were August, I would be more concerned, it’s May so my level of concern is about a 1 out of 10 – mainly due to the potential for heavy rain and possible rough surf conditions along some of the beaches along the Southeast coast.”

While a few days ahead of schedule, early tropical development has some precedents.

Hurricanes have formed in every month but February. Last year, Tropical Storm Ana opened the 2015 hurricane season with a May 9 debut.

Vertical wind shear graphic valid as of Friday shows low shear in area off southeast coast. Wind shear values should be less than 10 meters per second for a tropical cyclone to form.
Vertical wind shear graphic valid as of Friday shows low shear in area off southeast coast. Wind shear values should be less than 10 meters per second for a tropical cyclone to form.

 

This year, Hurricane Alex formed Jan. 14, making it only the second January-born Atlantic hurricane on record.

Other hurricanes refusing to adhere to man’s calendar include Alice, which formed Dec. 31, 1954, but managed to live through the New Year before dissipating Jan. 4. Another tropical storm dubbed Ana formed in 2003 on April 20, while Alberto was named on May 19, 2012. Alberto was followed just days later by Beryl, which formed May 26 of that year.

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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.”

Previous story:

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.

 

 

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.”