The new season doesn’t directly effect the Pacific Northwest, but indirectly most of us have relatives and/or friends who can be in danger as the season progresses. The season I mean is the Atlantic/Gulf/Caribbean Hurricane season. Hurricanes very rarely have direct consequences for those of us in the West Coast states so our concern isn’t for ourselves, but those who live along the East Coast and in the states close enough to the coast to be impacted by tropical cyclones.
Every year for over 20 years tropical cyclone forecasts have been made. These forecasts were developed by Dr. William Gray, Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Science, who passed away last year. He had already turned over the lead forecaster job to Research Scientist Phillip J. Klotzbach and Associate Professor Michael M. Bell who had worked under his leadership at Colorado State University.
Without wasting any time let’s get to the official prediction statements released on June 1, 2017. The title is “Extended Range Forecast Of Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Activity And Landfall Strike Probability For 2017.”
They released a preliminary forecast April 1, 2017 and here is the updated version just released. “We have increased our forecast and now believe that 2017 will have approximately average activity. The odds of a significant El Nino in 2017 have diminished somewhat, and portions of the tropical Atlantic anomalously warmed over the past two months.
While the tropical Atlantic is warmer than normal, the far North Atlantic remains colder than normal, potentially indicative of a negative phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation. We anticipate a near-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States Coastline and the Caribbean. As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make an active season for them. They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.”
Here is a look at the specifics of their prediction. They predict: 13 named storms (that doesn’t include Arlene which formed before the official start of the season); 6 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes.Their team also calculated the Probabilities for at least one Major (Category 3-4-5) Hurricane landfall on each of the following coastal areas: “1) Entire U.S. coastline – 55% (average for last century is 52%); U.S. East Coast including Peninsula Florida – 33% (average for last century is 31%); Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville – 32% (average for last century is 30%).”
They also calculated state impact probabilities for the states along the coast. There is no reason to go into all of those details at this time, but the state with the highest hurricane probability was Texas at 35% and 13% for a major hurricane. The states with the lowest impact probability was a tie at 1% for a hurricane were Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and New Hampshire. Those states also had a less than 1% chance for a major hurricane.
Not too many years ago the accuracy of their predictions came into question when they seriously missed the mark as to how severe the season would be. They have tweaked their procedures and have been much more accurate recently.
As I said, the Pacific Northwest is very rarely in any danger from tropical storms or hurricanes due to the fact that the prevailing winds that drive these storms moves from east to west. The Columbus Day storm back in 1962 was one very big exception to that rule. We still need to keep our eyes open for the possibility of at least getting heavy rain from the remnants of tropical cyclones that move northward through Mexico sending the clouds and precipitation northward to Oregon.
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