NOAA 2004-074A
Contact: Frank Lepore

NOAA News Releases 2004
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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today reiterated its May 2004 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook by calling for 12 to 15 tropical storms, with six to eight becoming hurricanes, and two to four of these becoming major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale). NOAA is an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30; the peak of the season is mid-August through mid-October.

This year, NOAA hurricane experts predict a 90 percent probability of an above-to-near normal season and only a 10 percent chance of a below-normal season.

“Atmospheric patterns and tropical Atlantic sea-surface temperatures are now in place to favor significant hurricane activity this season,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of NOAA's National Weather Service.

“The main factor influencing the Atlantic hurricane season again this year is the active Atlantic multi-decadal signal, which includes a continuation of warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures across the tropical Atlantic,” said Jim Laver, director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “These patterns are now in place as expected.”

However, one important factor that is not completely settled this season is the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) phenomenon, which could suppress hurricane development. NOAA’s latest ENSO Diagnostic Discussion indicates that neutral conditions (neither El Niño nor La Niña) are in place in the tropical Pacific, but could evolve into a weak El Niño during the next few months. If a weak El Niño develops, it could reduce late season hurricane activity.

“Whether ENSO-neutral conditions continue or a weak El Niño develops, NOAA expects significant Atlantic tropical storm and hurricane activity again this season,” said Max Mayfield director of NOAA’s Tropical Prediction Center - National Hurricane Center. Historically, above-to-near normal seasons have averaged two to three landfalling hurricanes in the continental United States and one to two hurricanes in the region around the Caribbean Sea.

The first named storm of this season was Hurricane Alex, which grazed the Outer Banks of North Carolina on August 3. Tropical Strom Bonnie formed August 9th over the south central Gulf of Mexico. NOAA’s National Weather Service urged interests in the northeastern Gulf of Mexico to closely monitor Bonnie’s progress as the storm is expected to reach hurricane strength over the next few days.

Tropical Storm Charley, the season’s third named storm developed today (August 10th) over the eastern Caribbean. Island Interests in the central and northwestern Caribbean are also monitoring Charley’s progress, particularly Jamaica and the Cayman Islands.

While forecasters have considerable skill in predicting the seasonal activity as a whole, “it’s not currently possible to predict over an entire season whether a given locality will be hit by a hurricane,” said Mayfield. “Therefore, NOAA strongly urges Gulf and Atlantic Coast residents, as well as those living in the Caribbean region, to be prepared.”

“Historically, NOAA’s seasonal hurricane outlooks issued in May have been quite good. The August outlooks tend to be even more accurate because they are issued just prior to the peak of the season,” said Laver. “Improved observations and better understanding by NOAA scientists have led to successful seasonal hurricane outlooks in each of the last five years.”

NOAA scientists are constantly working on “improving tropical cyclone analysis and prediction of individual storms, which is also a goal of the United States Weather Research Program (USWRP),” said Mayfield. “The USWRP Joint Hurricane Testbed helps NOAA apply research, technological and observational advances more rapidly to further improve hurricane forecasting.”

The 2004 Atlantic hurricane outlook is a joint product of scientists at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, the Hurricane Research Division and the National Hurricane Center. NOAA meteorologists use a suite of sophisticated numerical models and high-tech tools to forecast tropical storms and hurricanes. Scientists rely on information gathered by NOAA and U.S. Air Force Reserve personnel who fly directly into the storms in hurricane hunter aircraft; NOAA, NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense satellites; NEXRAD WSR-88D radars and partners among the international meteorological services.

NOAA’s National Weather Service is the primary source of weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. NOAA’s National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and 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.

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