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March 10, 2010

AccuWeather.com: A busier hurricane season ahead

AccuWeather.com's hurricane forecasters believe the 2010 Atlantic season will be "much more active" than last year's relatively meek performance. A rapidly weakening El Nino event in the tropical Pacific, unusually warm surface waters in the Atlantic's key hurricane nursery, weakening trade winds and higher humidities, they said, are all pointing to increased activity.

"This year has the chance to be an extreme season," said forecaster Joe Bastardi, who led the company's hurricane forecast team. He also correctly forecasted a very snowy winter season for the mid-Hurricane Bonnie in Ocean City, Md.Atlantic states in 2009-2010, although his predictions were far short of the actual, record-breaking totals.

The new AccuWeather.com hurricane forecast, out Wednesday morning, calls for 16 to 18 tropical storms this season (the average is 11; last year saw just nine, and only three became hurricanes).

Of the 16 to 18 he expects, Bastardi believes 15 will occur in the western Atlantic. He predicts seven landfalls, five of them hurricanes, of which two or three will come ashore in the U.S. (about average).

Bastardi sees similarities in this year's setup to those in 1964, 1995 and 1998. In 1964, Hurricane Cleo struck near Miami as a Cat. 2 storm and killed 217 people. In 1995, Hurricane Opal struck the Florida panhandle and caused $3 billion in damages. And in 1998, Hurricane Bonnie (photo) came ashore near Wilmington, N.C. as a strong Cat. 2 storm and caused $1 billion in damage.

The hurricane season begins officially on June 1, and continues through November.

(SUN PHOTO: Karl Merton Ferron/Bonnie whips Ocean City, Md. in 1998)

Posted by Frank Roylance at 9:00 AM | | Comments (2)
Categories: Hurricanes
        

Comments

Accuweather forecaster's 2009 prediction was 14 named storms and 7 hurricanes for an "above" average season. Actual result, 9 named storms and 3 hurricanes for a significantly "below" average season. Glad it was below average but don't see much purpose for this prediction when no repercussions for possibly scaring people while being so wrong.

FR: Everybody over-estimated the 2009 season with their early forecasts, including Bastardi (whose March forecast called for 13 named storms, eight hurricanes). They spent the summer rolling back their predictions as the El Nino developed in the Pacific and snuffed out much hurricane formation in the Atlantic. The object is not to scare, but to inform with the best available data, so that people can prepare.

Every year since 2005 when we had a rediculously huge number of named storms, they've been predicting a higher than average storm season and I think they've been wrong just about every year.

However, that's not really my question. How is it that an El Nino in the Pacific affects the Atlantic? Is it because whatever causes the El Nino has a similar effect in the Atlantic or is there some other system involved?

FR: Actually, the long-term average is 11 named storms. There were 10 in 2006; 15 in 2007; 16 in 2008, and 9 in 2009. As for El Nino, the changes in the Pacific cause changes in atmospheric patterns - jet streams, atmospheric pressure, global circulation etc - affecting regions very far from the Pacific, including the Atlantic and the Indian Oceans. In the Atlantic, El Nino tends to increase wind shear in the upper atmosphere. That literally cuts off the tops of the clouds, inhibiting hurricane formation. In La Nina, or more neutral years, storm formation is a bit easier, so more storms grow to tropical storm or hurricane strength.

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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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