Yep, a busy hurricane season. The National Hurricane Center today called for 13-20 named storms, with 7-11 becoming hurricanes and 3-6 becoming major hurricanes.
A hurricane with winds stronger than 110 mph is considered a major hurricane, capable of wreaking severe damage.
The forecast matched or worsened earlier predictions by groups such as the Tropical Meteorology Project, the United Kingdom Weather Service, the Weather Channel, AccuWeather.com and research groups at N.C. State and Penn State universities.
The long term seasonal average is currently:
- 12 named storms.
- 6 hurricanes.
- 3 major hurricanes.
The center provides its forecast each year to stir awareness at the opening of the June-November Atlantic basin hurricane season.
“As we saw first-hand with (Hurricane) Sandy (in 2012), it’s important to remember that tropical storm and hurricane impacts are not limited to the coastline. Strong winds, torrential rain, flooding and tornadoes often threaten inland areas far from where the storm makes landfall,” said Kathryn Sullivan, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration acting administrator.
If the forecasters are right, 2013 would be the 13th year of the past 17 to have more hurricanes than the long-term average.
The divining rods for all these computer forecasts are the same trends in atmospheric and ocean conditions.
The only differences in results between these programs tend to be in the number of predicted storms.
“Anticipate (the Hurricane Center) to go for an above-normal number of named storms,” said Mark Malsick, S.C. Climate Office severe weather liaison.
Hurricane season is the time when tropical cyclones are likely to form in the Atlantic. The ocean-spawned storms can kill and cause millions of dollars damage.
In Charleston, the greatest threat of the worst storms tends to run from August through September.
“Call me old-fashioned, but I don’t put too much stock on these pre-season predictions and prefer to focus on the tropics day to day,” Malsick said.
The actual totals were 19 named storms for each of the past three years. Moderating factors this year are relatively lower tropical ocean temperatures and El Nino possibly sticking up its head. El Nino, or cold Pacific water, tends to impede hurricanes in the Atlantic.
But an El Nino cooling hasn’t begun yet, and the forecast is for conditions to remain neutral into the late summer.
Maybe the most significant computer guess for the Lowcountry is Lian Xie’s. The N.C. State team predicts seven to 10 hurricanes forming in the Atlantic basin, with two of them not going into the Gulf of Mexico or the Caribbean Sea.
That means they would be headed toward us. It’s been seven years since a major hurricane made landfall in the United States — something that hasn’t happened before since record-keeping started. Nobody expects this trend to continue for long.
“A wild season is on the way, and the ‘major hit drought’ on the U.S. coast should end,” said meteorologist Joe Bastardi of WeatherBell. “In fact, multiple major hits are likely this year with (some conditions) favoring the East Coast, as in the 1950s.”
Hurricanes Irene and Sandy have raked the East Coast the past two years.
It’s worth pointing out that in the 1950s, three hurricanes and a tropical depression made landfall in South Carolina.
Two of them were powerful storms: Hurricane Hazel in 1954 hit near Little River, and Hurricane Gracie in 1959 hit near Beaufort.
Gracie was as strong as the devastating Hugo in 1989. Hazel hit in mid-October. On the brighter side, a year after two “pre-season” storms formed, the Atlantic basin is quiet now, thanks to strong shear winds.
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