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May 21, 2009

NOAA weighs in with 2009 hurricane forecast

SUN PHOTO/ Andre Chung 

We sure don't have to worry about it for this holiday weekend, but the 2009 hurricane season is approaching, and the government's forecasters have finally published their predictions for the coming season.

Like the corporate and university prognosticators before them, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's experts expect average to slightly-above average tropical activity from June through November.

Specifically, NOAA is predicting nine to 14 named storms, with four to seven becoming hurricanes, and one to three reaching Category 3 or more on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

The long-term averages are: 11 names storms, with six hurricanes, two of them reaching Cat. 3.

They base their estimates on several factors. First is the ongoing high-activity era that began in 1995, and which is expected to continue for another decade or two. That's based on large-scale cycles in the Atlantic basin, including enhanced rainfall over west Africa, warmer Atlantic waters and reduced wind shear over the ocean regions where hurricanes form.

On the other hand, there is a chance that weak El Nino conditions could develop this summer over the tropical eastern Pacific Ocean, a factor that tends to suppress hurricane development in the Atlantic. Cooler-than-normal surface waters in the eastern tropical Atlantic could also tamp down hurricane development there if those conditions persist, NOAA forecasters said.

But while they are not expecting a bad hurricane season, the government meteorologists say Americans should prepare anyway. "Even a near- or below-normal season can produce landfalling hurricanes, and it only takes one landfalling storm to make a bad season," said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. Isabel (photo above) was a weakening tropical storm by the time it reached Maryland in 2003, and folks along the bayshore know what that cost them.

More than 35 million Americans now live within the regions most vulnerable to hurricane conditions. "Public awareness and public preparedness are the best defenses against a hurricane," said Commerce Secty. Gary Locke.

First up this year: Tropical Storm Ana. No sign of her yet.

Posted by Frank Roylance at 11:55 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Hurricanes


The discussion helps to explain NOAA's forecast reasoning, which is great, but the forecast itself is not terribly useful in the format given:

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About Frank Roylance
This site is the Maryland Weather archive. The current Maryland Weather blog can be found here.
Frank Roylance is a reporter for The Baltimore Sun. He came to Baltimore from New Bedford, Mass. in 1980 to join the old Evening Sun. He moved to the morning Sun when the papers merged in 1992, and has spent most of his time since covering science, including astronomy and the weather. One of The Baltimore Sun's first online Web logs, the Weather Blog debuted in October 2004. In June 2006 Frank also began writing comments on local weather and stargazing for The Baltimore Sun's print Weather Page. Frank also answers readers’ weather queries for the newspaper and the blog. Frank Roylance retired in October 2011. Maryland Weather is now being updated by members of The Baltimore Sun staff

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