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The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook

May 25th 17
Staff Report


The forecast is in, and it’s not looking bright: the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its outlook for the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season today, predicting an above-average season.


According to the forecast, there is a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 35 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season.


More specifically, forecasters predict a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher) — five to nine of these could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including two to four major hurricanes (Categories 3, 4, or 5, with winds of 111 mph or higher). These numbers take into account Tropical Storm Arlene, an April pre-season storm in the eastern Atlantic.


An average season consists of 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes and three become major hurricanes.


In a press release, Gerry Bell, PH.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, attributes the outlook to their expectation of a weak or non-existent El Nino, near- or above-average sea-surface temperatures in the region, and an average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in the same region.


Since strong El Ninos and wind shear typically suppress development of Atlantic hurricanes, their predicted weak condition influences the predicted increase in this year’s hurricane activity. This isn’t a good mix with the warmer sea surface temperatures, which love to fuel hurricanes. It’s important to note, though, that the climate models are showing considerable uncertainty.


If you’re cruising around the Atlantic this season, bear in mind that NOAA’s National Hurricane Center will have additional tools to track storms besides its typical advisories, watches, and warnings, which will include disturbances that aren’t a tropical cyclone but still threaten land with tropical storm or hurricane conditions within 48 hours. They also have a new experimental visualization tool, which will show when damaging winds are forecast to reach a community, and a more interactive and clickable hurricane track cone graphic, which will indicate how far outside the cone hurricane and tropical-storm-force winds extend.


The 2016 season was the most active since 2012, producing 15 named storms, including seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes.


In regards to the eastern Pacific and central Pacific, NOAA predicted an 80 percent chance of a near-or above-normal season for both regions. For the eastern Pacific, there is a 70 percent probability of 14 to 20 named storms, including six to 11 hurricanes, of which three to seven are expected to be major hurricanes. For the central Pacific, there is a 70 percent probability of five to eight tropical cyclones, including tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes.

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