Note to Editors: The complete hurricane forecast report will be available after 8 a.m. MST at http://newsinfo.colostate.edu/index.asp. Previous forecasts and a list of frequently asked questions are available at http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu.
Developing El Nino conditions in the central and eastern Pacific have led the hurricane forecast team at Colorado State to continue to call for below-average activity for the remainder of the 2006 Atlantic basin hurricane season.
The forecasting team of Philip Klotzbach and William Gray today released a new report that calls for two more named storms, one more hurricane and no more intense or major (Saffir/Simpson category 3-4-5) hurricanes for the remainder of the hurricane season (October-November). With the observed activity through September 2006 of nine named storms, five hurricanes and two major hurricanes, a total of 11 named storms are predicted to form in the Atlantic basin during 2006 with six of these predicted to become hurricanes. Two major hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater have already formed, and the forecast team does not expect any more major hurricane formations this year.
The long-term average for the entire Atlantic basin hurricane season is 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 intense hurricanes per year.
"We have experienced average hurricane activity through September," said Klotzbach, lead author of the forecast and a member of Colorado State’s hurricane forecast team. "August was inactive, but September had above-average activity. We expect October to have below-average activity largely due to developing El Nino conditions in the central and eastern Pacific. November activity in El Nino years is very rare."
Atlantic basin tropical cyclone activity for the 2006 season will be considerably less than previously predicted largely because of the unexpected El Nino conditions that developed late this summer as well as the development of mid-level dryness in the tropical Atlantic – with large amounts of African dust – that greatly reduced August activity.
"Typically, El Nino conditions put an early end to hurricane formation in the Atlantic basin," Gray said. "This year, El Nino has developed faster than almost anyone predicted."
For October, the team expects two named storms and one hurricane with no intense hurricanes.
June and July experienced average amounts of tropical cyclone activity with two named storms forming – Alberto and Beryl. Unlike 2005, when two major hurricanes – Dennis and Emily – developed and intensified in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean, no hurricane activity occurred in the deep tropics during June and July 2006.
Three named storms (Chris, Debby and Ernesto) formed during August, but only Ernesto briefly reached hurricane status.
Four named storms (Florence, Gordon, Helene and Isaac) formed during September, and all four became hurricanes. Gordon and Helene became major hurricanes.
No hurricanes have struck the U.S. coastline so far this season. "Despite the lower predictions, residents living along the U.S. coastline should always be prepared for major storms," Gray said.
The hurricane forecast team has said the United States has been fortunate over the past few decades – until the 2004 and 2005 seasons – in experiencing only a few major hurricanes making U.S. landfall.
Between 1995 and 2003, 122 named storms, 69 hurricanes and 32 major hurricanes formed in the Atlantic basin. During that period, only three of the 32 major hurricanes – Opal, Bret and Fran – crossed the U.S. coastline. Based on historical averages, about one in three major hurricanes that forms in the Atlantic basin comes ashore in the United States.
But in the past two years, 13 major hurricanes formed in the Atlantic basin, seven of them striking the U.S. coast.
What made the 2004-2005 seasons so unusually destructive was not the high frequency of major hurricanes but the high percentage of major hurricanes that were steered over the U.S. coastline. These major landfalling hurricane events were primarily a result of favorable upper-air steering currents present over the past two seasons.
The team continuously works to improve forecast methodologies based on a variety of climate-related global and regional predictors.
For a detailed description of the many detailed forecast factors, visit the Web at http://tropical.atmos.colostate.edu.
A verification and discussion of all 2006 forecasts will be issued on Nov. 17 followed by the first 2007 seasonal hurricane forecast in early December.