FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Carmeyia Gillis
AS PEAK SEASON BEGINS
With hurricane season hitting its peak period, hurricane forecasters at the Commerce Department's National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today said they expect normal to slightly above-normal activity for the rest of the 2001 Atlantic hurricane season. This is a slight increase over the May pre-season forecast, which called for a normal season.
After only two tropical storms at the start of the peak period, NOAA forecasters are suggesting the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean could see a total of nine to 12 tropical storms, of which six to eight may become hurricanes, with two to four of those becoming major hurricanes by season's end November 30. On average, normal to slightly above normal seasons feature two to three land-falling hurricanes in the United States, and one or two in the Caribbean.
Dr. Gerry Bell, hurricane and climate specialist at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, said the prominent climate factors guiding the slight change to the forecast include: 1) the absence of both El Niño and La Niña (considered a neutral phase), and 2) ongoing decadal wind and water temperature patterns. These patterns have already established below average vertical wind shear, above average sea-surface temperatures, and a favorable mid-level steering flow in the main development region, all of which favor hurricane development over the tropical Atlantic.
"With current climate patterns, storms are more likely to become major hurricanes and pose a threat to both the U.S. and the region around the Caribbean Sea, as they move westward across the tropical Atlantic," Bell said.
These conditions are consistent with the warm phase of the Atlantic multi-decadal mode recently discussed by NOAA Hurricane Research Division meteorologists Stan Goldenberg and Dr. Chris Landsea in the July 20th issue of the journal Science. Bell added: "The regional anomalies anticipated in the preseason outlook are now somewhat more conducive for Atlantic hurricane activity, thus increasing the probability of an above-average season."
NOAA forecasters said Tropical Storm Allison - responsible for at least 40 deaths and $5 billion in damages from Texas to Pennsylvania in June - is a dramatic example of why the nation's focus should remain on the impact of a land-falling storm, not just the number of storms that could occur.
"Our message continues to be: `It only takes one storm to ruin your year," said Max Mayfield, director of NOAA's National Hurricane Center in Miami. "Allison was not classified as a hurricane, yet it brought record devastation through its torrential rains and inland floods."
"While Allison highlighted the dangers of inland flooding, storm surge from hurricanes bring the greatest potential for loss of life," Mayfield said. "When an evacuation order is made, residents should take it seriously."
According to U.S. Census figures, more than 48 million people live within 50 miles of the Gulf and Atlantic coasts, and by 2010, that number is expected to double.
"We are urging residents to stay tuned to the latest weather news and develop a safety plan before the storm hits," Mayfield said.
NOAA's National Weather Service suggests the following safety tips:
Gather information about hazards and keep informed about the latest news, information and developments of the storm.
The Atlantic hurricane season ends Nov. 30. Scientists at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, National Hurricane Center and the Hurricane Research Division prepared this outlook.