Last Friday I blogged about all the early hurricane forecasts coming in for the season ahead and, generally, they are calling for a normal season or a bit below. Normal, or average, is 14 tropical storms, seven becoming hurricanes and three of those becoming major Category 3 or stronger. Number of storms is always a guess, but I have generally looked at them as guidance. Don’t focus on the number of storms, but rather whether the season is expected to be busy or quiet (and even those guesses get it wrong now and then, but they are largely pretty good!).
As the folks can tell you in Fort Myers, despite the number of hurricanes, it only takes one hurricane Ian to wreck your world, so the real question is where will these storms most likely go? After all, if there is only one storm and you get it, then all bets are off.
Colorado State University forecasts in terms of statistical likelihood -- the more cars on the highway, the more wrecks, right? And so with their forecast of a generally average season, they are also forecasting the likelihood of impacts being about the normal:
• 44 % for the entire U.S. coastline (average from 1880-2020 is 43%)
• 22% for the U.S. East Coast including the Florida peninsula (average from 1880- 2020 is 21%)
• 28% for the Gulf Coast from the Florida panhandle westward to Brownsville (average from 1880-2020 is 27%)
• 49% for the Caribbean (average from 1880-2020 is 47%)
Accuweather forecaster Dan Kottlowski gets a little more specific. For one thing, he is forecasting two to four direct U.S. impacts. To be sure, the “impact” isn’t defined as more than “direct and significant” but that can have a lot of range.
“Based on climatology and an evolving El Niño pattern during August through October, the highest chance for direct and significant impacts will be from the Florida panhandle around the entire state of Florida to the Carolina coast,” Kottlowski said. “There appears to be a lower chance for direct impacts over the western Gulf of Mexico and for the Northeast U.S.”
Dan looks to the strength of the Bermuda high. The clockwise winds with that high direct storms across the Atlantic, so it stands to reason that a relatively weak high doesn’t have the strength to push them all the way to Texas. He thinks the high will remain weak enough that storms will end up in Florida or the southeast U.S. I drew this out as a simple explainer:
Of course, this only means that our area will have a lower chance of impacts, not a zero chance! You can read all about Accuweather’s forecast right here. I’ve known Dan for decades and he is an excellent hurricane specialist.
I’ve discussed Dale Link in this blog before -- he is an engineer who forecasts WHERE hurricanes will go, not how many there will be. His forecast this year put out last January calls for pretty much the same reasoning with Texas and the western Gulf out of the mix. The red areas are the zones mostly like to have a hurricane landfall, according to Dale:
Dale’s methodology relies on historical trends -- where hurricanes went in the past determines where they go in the future. You can read more about his forecast and how he gets there right here.
So I would never suggest we get too comfortable with any hurricane forecast, especially so early in the year. After all, this is the 40th anniversary of Hurricane Alicia....the 1983 hurricane season only had four storms that year of which three were hurricanes. And we got one. Always be ready!
Email me with comments and questions!