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NOAA: Do not wait until the next hurricane hits to take action


Hurricane season officially begins this week, but it is off to an early start with the formation of subtropical storm Andrea. NOAA’s Atlantic hurricane season outlook calls for up to 15 named storms, including as many as eight hurricanes, of which a few could become major with Category 3 strength winds or higher. It is too early to determine whether any of these storms will make landfall, but those in hurricane-prone regions should begin preparing.

As we saw last year with Hurricane Michael, explosive intensification can occur over the span of a few hours very near the coast, and this leaves very little time for preparation. Now is the time to take action. Do not wait until a storm is threatening landfall and warnings are issued.

NOAA is better equipped than ever to keep communities informed ahead of storms through accurate and reliable forecasts. Through sustained investment in research, NOAA has advanced forecasting expertise to predict and warn the public of the many hazards associated with tropical systems — from destructive high winds and inundating storm surge to flooding and tornadoes, including inland threats as a storm’s impacts do not stop at the coastline.

New weather satellites in orbit are now feeding better data into more sophisticated computer models that can accurately project how weather conditions will evolve at smaller intervals and further out in time. 

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NOAA is also implementing a series of upgrades this hurricane season to the Global Forecast System, commonly referred to as the “American mode­l.” The upgraded model better predicts cyclone track and intensity, as well as other large-scale weather patterns. A new s­­­oftware framework for predicting pressure, density, temperature and wind will form the foundation for future improvements, ranging from how the model ingests weather observations to how it calculates incoming and outgoing radiation, clouds, and precipitation.  

The effectiveness of scientific and technological advances relies on the deep expertise of forecasters and their strong working relationships with the emergency management community at all levels of government. These vital connections build trust and foster the exchange of information to support important decisions at the state, local and federal levels when lives are on the line. It is important to remember that disaster management is locally-executed, state-managed, and federally supported, and NOAA provides key information to leaders at every level of government.

Since Hurricane Camille slammed into the Gulf Coast 50 years ago as one of the few notorious Category 5 storms to strike the U.S., hurricane forecasts have advanced tremendously; however, work still remains. For example, researchers and forecasters are studying ways to overcome the challenges of predicting storms that experience rapid intensification, which is especially critical when quick changes occur close to land. NOAA is also working with social scientists to better communicate the array of hazards of tropical systems, from storm surge along the coast to inland flooding from rainfall that occurs far from where the storm comes ashore.

Accurate forecasts are part of the preparedness equation, but they can only go so far in saving lives and property. Everyone needs to take the time now to do their part in preparing for the worst, while still hoping for the best. People can take steps today by determining if they live in an evacuation zone, assembling an emergency kit with essential supplies, creating a communications plan and purchasing flood insurance. Waiting until you are in the path of a land-falling storm could prove to be too little, too late.

Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., is the acting administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the agency’s assistant secretary of Commerce for Environmental Observation and Prediction. He was previously chief atmospheric scientist at Panasonic Avionics Corporation, chairman of the American Meteorological Society’s Forecast Improvement Group and served on the World Meteorological Organization’s aircraft-based observing systems expert team.


Predictions for Hurricane season 2018

Slightly above-average 2018 Atlantic hurricane season predicted by CSU team



Colorado State University hurricane researchers are predicting a slightly above-average Atlantic hurricane season in 2018, citing the relatively low likelihood of a significant El Niño as a primary factor.

Tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently near their long-term average values. Consequently, they are considered a neutral factor for 2018 Atlantic hurricane activity at the present time.

A weak La Niña this past winter has weakened slightly over the past few weeks. While there is the potential that a weak El Niño could develop by the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, the odds of significant El Niño development appear relatively low. El Niño tends to increase upper-level westerly winds across the Caribbean into the tropical Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes as they try to form.

The western tropical North Atlantic is currently slightly warmer than normal, while the eastern tropical Atlantic is slightly cooler than normal. Colder-than-normal sea surface temperatures provide less fuel for tropical cyclone formation and intensification. They are also associated with a more stable atmosphere as well as drier air, both of which suppress organized thunderstorm activity necessary for hurricane development.

14 named storms

The CSU Tropical Meteorology Project team is predicting 14 named storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. Of those, researchers expect seven to become hurricanes and three to reach major hurricane strength (Saffir/Simpson category 3-4-5) with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater.

The team bases its forecasts on over 60 years of historical data that include Atlantic sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures, vertical wind shear levels (the change in wind direction and speed with height in the atmosphere), El Niño (warming of waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific), and other factors.

So far, the 2018 hurricane season is exhibiting characteristics similar to 1960, 1967, 1996, 2006 and 2011.

“The years 1960, 1967 and 2006 had near-average Atlantic hurricane activity, while 1996 and 2011 were both above-normal hurricane seasons,” said Phil Klotzbach, research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science and lead author of the report.

The team predicts that 2018 hurricane activity will be about 135 percent of the average season. By comparison, 2017’s hurricane activity was about 245 percent of the average season. The 2017 season was most notable for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which devastated the United States and portions of the Caribbean.

The CSU team will issue forecast updates on May 31, July 2 and Aug. 2.

This is the 35th year that the CSU hurricane research team has issued the Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecast. Recently, the Tropical Meteorology Project team has expanded to include Michael Bell, associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science. William Gray launched the report in 1984 and continued to be an author on them until his death in 2016.

The CSU forecast is intended to provide a best estimate of activity to be experienced during the upcoming season – not an exact measure.

Bell cautioned coastal residents to take proper precautions.

“It takes only one storm near you to make this an active season,” Bell said.

Landfall probability

The report also includes the probability of major hurricanes making landfall:

  • 63 percent for the entire U.S. coastline (average for the last century is 52 percent)
  • 39 percent for the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida peninsula (average for the last century is 31 percent)
  • 38 percent for the Gulf Coast from the Florida panhandle westward to Brownsville (average for the last century is 30 percent)
  • 52 percent for the Caribbean (average for the last century is 42 percent)
    The forecast team also tracks the likelihood of tropical storm-force, hurricane-force and major hurricane-force winds occurring at specific locations along the coastal United States, the Caribbean and Central America through its Landfall Probability website.

The site provides information for all coastal states as well as 11 regions and 205 individual counties along the U.S. coastline from Brownsville, Texas, to Eastport, Maine. Landfall probabilities for regions and counties are adjusted based on the current climate and its projected effects on the upcoming hurricane season.

Klotzbach and Bell update the site regularly with assistance from the GeoGraphics Laboratory at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts.

Funding for this year’s report has been provided by Interstate Restoration, Ironshore Insurance, the Insurance Information Institute, Weatherboy and a grant from the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation.


Released April 5, 2018
Tropical Cyclone Parameters Extended Range
(1981-2010 Climatological Median Forecast for 2018
in parentheses)
Named Storms (12)* 14
Named Storm Days (60.1) 70
Hurricanes (6.5) 7
Hurricane Days (21.3) 30
Major Hurricanes (2.0) 3
Major Hurricane Days (3.9) 7
Accumulated Cyclone Energy (92) 130
Net Tropical Cyclone Activity (103%) 135
* Numbers in ( ) represent medians based on 1981-2010 data.

Source: Colorado State University

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