I kinda figured that NOAA's seasonal hurricane forecast would be on the high side, but even I was taken aback when I saw the numbers!
These numbers were even on the high side compared to Dr. William Gray's seasonal forecast back in April (Dr. Gray will update his seasonal forecast next Wednesday).
If we end up seeing 23 named storms we will exhaust all the names on this year's list and move onto the greek alphabet like we did in 2005!
The reason why such an active season is being forecast is because of 2 main factors...
1. We are moving from an El Nino to a La Nina phase in the equatorial Pacific. El Nino is abnormally warm water that creates less favorable wind environments for developing storms in the Atlantic. That is why we saw such weak, short-lived storms in the Atlantic last year. La Nina is abnormally cool water in the equatorial Pacific and it makes the wind environment much more favorable for storms. Some of the most active hurricane seasons have been years when La Nina was present in the Pacific.
2. Atlanta and Gulf SST (Sea Surface Temps) are well above average and in some cases near record levels. Hurricanes need warm water to survive and develop... the warmer the water... the more portential a storm has to grow!
A landfalling storms impact many more people than just those of us along the coast. As a matter of fact... more deaths actually occur away from the coast here in Florida. So we ALL need to know what to do before, during, and after a storm.
This is another reminder that NOW is the time to prepare for hurricane season. It is this week that we focus on what you need to do to keep you, your family, and your property safe.
There are lots of resources out there to build your family plan including the following...
One of the great things about meteorology is that we are always learning! Unfortunately, we make mistakes, but by making those mistakes we can learn from them and do what we do better. This year the National Hurricane Center this year is adjusting when they issue watches and warnings as well as how they report the storm surge.
Tropical Storm and Hurricane Watches and Warnings will be issued 12hrs sooner.... so instead of 36hrs... watches will be issued 48hrs in advance. Warnings will be issued 36hrs instead of 24hrs in advance. The reason is because we are now able to better predict the tracks of tropical systems. Our 3 day error 20 years ago is what our 5day error is today!
The other change has to do with the Saffir-Simpson scale. They are removing the 'surge' component from the scale because they found that all category 5 storms do not produce 18'+ surges and category 3 storms can produce 20'+ surges. Katrina and Ike were both perfect examples for why this change is being made. So much goes into determining a storm surge other than wind speed... coast shelf and the size of the storm help determine how big of a surge occurs. So because some people would look at the chart and feel like because they are 15-20' above sea level and a category 3 storm is coming in that they should be OK. Katrina and Ike would have put them under water. That is the reason for the change.
I can assure you that we have been planning for months here in the VIPIR7 Weather Center to get ready for the 2010 hurricane season. Just because we are forecasting a very busy year it only takes 1 storm to have a bad hurricane season. Remember 1992... it was a very quiet year... expect for one storm called Andrew.
Lets hope that we do not see any storms here in the panhandle this year, but also lets prepare as if a major storm is headed this way so we can focus on getting out of harm's way instead of trying to tie up loose ends at the last minute.
If you have any questions or concerns about what you need to do to prepare for a storm do not hesitate to contact me. We are only here because you watch. We are here for you.
Chief Meteorologist, WJHG-TV