NOAA released their 2017 Hurricane Outlook today ahead of the Atlantic Hurricane Season which kicks-off on June 1 and runs through November 30. The outlook is calling for a likely above-normal season. Forecasters predict a 45% chance of an above-normal season, a 35% chance of a near-normal season, and only a 20% chance of a below-normal season.
Benjamin Friedman, Acting Administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), was joined with Mary Erickson, Deputy Director of the National Weather Service (NWS), and Dr. Bill Lapenta, Director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction to unveil the seasonal outlook at a press conference this morning at the NOAA Center for Weather and Climate Prediction in College Park, Maryland.
Friedman said, “Today’s announcement underscores the importance of preparedness.” The seasonal outlooks forecast the volume of storms and their intensity but not specifics such as landfall locations, if any were to actually occur. Nevertheless, Friedman urges all to exercise caution ahead of the season. “It’s been a record-breaking 12 years since a major hurricane has made landfall on the United States. Some may think that’s lucky…(but) in fact, tropical storms and lesser storms can be just as damaging and just as deadly.”
Forecasters predict a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). An average season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.
“The outlook reflects our expectation of a weak or non-existent El Nino, near- or above-average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in that same region,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
Strong El Ninos and wind shear typically suppress development of Atlantic hurricanes, so the prediction for weak conditions points to more hurricane activity this year. Also, warmer sea surface temperatures tend to fuel hurricanes as they move across the ocean. However, the climate models are showing considerable uncertainty, which is reflected in the comparable probabilities for an above-normal and near-normal season.
“NOAA’s broad range of expertise and resources support the nation with strong science and service before, during and after each storm to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy as we continue building a Weather-Ready Nation,” said Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator. “From our expert modelers to our dedicated forecasters and brave crews of our hurricane hunters, we’ll be here to warn the nation every step of the way this hurricane season.”
“As a Florida resident, I am particularly proud of the important work NOAA does in weather forecasting and hurricane prediction,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “These forecasts are important for both public safety and business planning, and are a crucial function of the federal government.”
The NOAA outlook is more pessimistic than a previous outlook issued by Colorado State University earlier this spring. That 2017 Hurricane Season Outlook was unveiled at the 2017 National Tropical Weather Conference in South Padre Island, Texas. Dr. Philip Klotzbach, a Research Scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University (CSU), shared their analysis and forecast which called for a less active Atlantic Hurricane Season, with 11 storms expected. That outlook also calls for 4 hurricanes over 16 hurricane days; typically, there’s 6.5 hurricanes over 21.3 days.
Regardless of what forms, experts urge people to be prepared ahead of the hurricane season. “Preparedness saves lives. Preparedness begins with each individual,” said Erickson.