This is an excerpt from EERE Network News, a weekly electronic newsletter.

May 30, 2007

Forecasters Predict an Active Atlantic Hurricane Season

Photo of a large oil platform tilting badly to one side, with part of the platform in the ocean, while boats circle it.

In 2005, an extremely active Atlantic hurricane season caused extensive damage to oil and natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico.
Credit: Robert M. Reed, U.S. Coast Guard

The Atlantic hurricane season starts on June 1st, and it's going to be an active one, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Experts at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center say there's a 75 percent chance that the Atlantic hurricane season will be above normal and are projecting 13 to 17 named storms, with 7 to 10 becoming hurricanes, of which 3 to 5 could reach Category 3 or higher. According to NOAA, the season will probably be near the high end of those predictions if a La Niña develops in the next few months. And although the season has already seen its first named storm—Subtropical Storm Andrea in early May—this rare event is not an indicator of the coming season, according to NOAA forecasters. See the NOAA press release and the Climate Prediction Center report.

NOAA's projection is generally backed up by other forecasters. In April, the team at Colorado State University (CSU) released their latest forecast, which projects 17 named storms, 9 hurricanes, and 5 intense hurricanes. The CSU team estimates a 75 percent chance of landfall of a major hurricane somewhere on the U.S. coast this year. Among private company forecasters, WeatherBug predicts 13 to 15 named storms and 7 to 9 hurricanes, while AccuWeather predicts 13 to 14 named storms and 3 or more major hurricanes. AccuWeather also goes a step further, predicting that 6 or 7 storms will strike the U.S. coast. See the CSU report and the press releases from WeatherBug and AccuWeather.

One current subject of contention is whether climate change is causing a more intense hurricane season. The answer from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution: maybe yes, maybe no. Warmer oceans definitely provide more energy to fuel hurricanes, say Woods Hole researchers, but an examination of long-term records indicates that El Niño and La Niña effects and the impacts of West African monsoons are also critical factors. Last year's El Niño subdued the Atlantic hurricane season, whereas this year's shift toward La Niña should strengthen it. And the report from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, linked to above, notes that the West African monsoon system is going strong. See the Woods Hole press release.