First Hurricane Forecast for 2017

Published on April 9th, 2017

This is the 34th year in which the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project has made forecasts of the upcoming season’s Atlantic basin hurricane activity. Here is a summary of their early prediction for this year courtesy of the Tampa Bay Times:

The first hurricane forecast of 2017 calls for a slightly below average season and 11 named storms this year. Researchers believe the formation of storms will be suppressed by an impending El Niño, the phenomenon of warmer-than-average water temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific.

The warmer waters tend to strengthen high-altitude winds that swirl over the tropical Atlantic Ocean, essentially blowing apart storms and making it harder for them to condense into dangerous cyclones.

“El Niños are good news for the Atlantic,” said the forecast’s lead author, Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at the university. “It’s not 100 percent, but it’s looking more likely than not that El Niño will come.”

The forecast will be updated on June 1, the official start of hurricane season. This year’s forecast is slightly lower than the median of 12 storms between 1981 and 2010.

The report also predicts that there will be six hurricanes among those 11 named storms: four hurricanes and two major hurricanes, which are Category 3 storms and above with sustained wind speeds of at least 111 mph. The medians between 1981 and 2010 were 6.5 hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

The forecast also suggests a lower-than-normal chance of cyclones making landfall along the U.S. coastline. The chances of a hurricane striking the entire coastline —from Maine to the U.S.-Mexican border — is 75 percent. Data suggests the probability of landfall over the last century is 84 percent.

Another thing to keep in mind this year, Klotzbach said, is that there has been a lot of late-season hurricane activity in recent years.

September, he said, is normally the peak of the season, “but last year was an unusual season in that it was pretty quiet through September, and then October was very active.” Last year, Hurricane Nicole struck Bermuda in October and Hurricane Otto formed in late November, making it the latest storm on record to form in the Atlantic.

Even though Colorado State’s forecast for this year calls for a less active season and below normal chances of a storm making landfall, Klotzbach said it’s important for residents up and down the coast to keep their guard up.

“Even if our forecasts are dead on perfect, we can’t predict where the storms are going to go,” he said, “and it only takes one for it to be an active season for you.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Hurricane Center will issue its Atlantic hurricane forecast in May.

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