NOAA 03-095
Contact: Carmeyia Gillis
NOAA News Releases 2003
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As the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season approaches, NOAA forecasters today said they still predict an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, and now call for a total of between 12-15 tropical storms, with 7-9 becoming hurricanes, and 3 or 4 becoming major hurricanes (Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale: Category 3 or higher), said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), an agency of the Commerce Department. The update is consistent with the ranges stated in the May outlook, which called for 11-15 tropical storms, 6-9 hurricanes, and 2-4 major hurricanes.

Since May, NOAA scientists have observed the atmospheric conditions becoming increasingly favorable for an above-normal hurricane season. These favorable conditions, combined with the active phase of the Atlantic multi-decadal signal, indicate an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season is likely.

“One might assume the Atlantic hurricane season would be less active than predicted in May since La Niña has not developed, but this is not the case,” said Jim Laver, NOAA Climate Prediction Center’s director. “In this instance, La Niña is not everything. It is possible to have an above-normal hurricane season without La Niña, just as long as the right atmospheric conditions such as wind and air pressure patterns are in place, as they are now.”

These favorable conditions are being aided by wind and air pressure patterns that have persisted for the past eight years. Meteorologist Stanley Goldenberg at NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division said this active multi-decadal signal is expected to last for at least another decade, and has already helped to make 1995-2002 the most active period since 1944.

“Many of the hurricanes this season will develop over the tropical Atlantic and move westward as they strengthen. These hurricanes could pose a threat to the United States and/or the Caribbean Islands,” said Dr. Gerry Bell, head of NOAA’s seasonal hurricane prediction team.

Similar seasons, dating back to 1945, have averaged 2-3 landfalling hurricanes in the continental United States and 1-2 hurricanes in the region around the Caribbean Sea. Yet, NOAA cautions it is not possible to forecast this far out the total number of landfalling storms or the specific localities that could be impacted by a tropical storm or hurricane this season.

So far this season, the National Hurricane Center has issued advisories on four tropical storms, two of which became hurricanes (Claudette and Danny). For the rest of the season, NOAA expects an additional 8-11 tropical storms, with 5-7 becoming hurricanes, and 3-4 becoming major hurricanes.

“We’ve already seen some significant impacts this year, especially from Hurricane Claudette in Texas. This seasonal forecast implies we must be prepared for much more activity, including some major hurricanes”, said Max Mayfield, National Hurricane Center director.

NOAA issues an updated Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook as the peak of the season approaches. The official hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, with peak activity occurring from mid-August through October.

The Atlantic hurricane season outlook is a joint product of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC), Hurricane Research Division (HRD) and National Hurricane Center (NHC). The Climate Prediction Center and the National Hurricane Center are part of the NOAA National Weather Service. The National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. The NOAA National Weather Service operates the most advanced flood warning and forecast system in the world, helping to protect lives and property, and enhance the national economy.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation’s coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

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