– NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center says the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season will likely be below-normal, but that’s no reason to believe coastal areas will have it easy.
For the hurricane season, which officially runs from June 1 to November 30, NOAA is predicting a 70 percent likelihood of 6 to 11 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 3 to 6 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including zero to 2 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). While a below-normal season is likely (70 percent), there is also a 20 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 10 percent chance of an above-normal season.
“A below-normal season doesn’t mean we’re off the hook. As we’ve seen before, below-normal seasons can still produce catastrophic impacts to communities,” said NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan, Ph.D., referring to the 1992 season in which only seven named storms formed, yet the first was Andrew – a Category 5 Major Hurricane that devastated South Florida.
“The main factor expected to suppress the hurricane season this year is El Niño, which is already affecting wind and pressure patterns, and is forecast to last through the hurricane season,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “El Niño may also intensify as the season progresses, and is expected to have its greatest influence during the peak months of the season. We also expect sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic to be close to normal, whereas warmer waters would have supported storm development.”
With the new hurricane season comes a new prototype storm surge watch/warning graphic from NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, intended to highlight areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States that have a significant risk of life-threatening inundation by storm surge from a tropical cyclone.
The new graphic will introduce the concept of a watch or warning specific to the storm surge hazard. Storm surge is often the greatest threat to life and property from a tropical cyclone, and it can occur at different times and at different locations from a storm’s hazardous winds. In addition, while most coastal residents can remain in their homes and be safe from a tropical cyclone’s winds, evacuations are often needed to keep people safe from storm surge. Having separate warnings for these two hazards should provide emergency managers, the media, and the general public better guidance on the hazards they face when tropical cyclones threaten.
“It only takes one hurricane or tropical storm making landfall in your community to significantly disrupt your life,” said FEMA Deputy Administrator Joseph Nimmich. “Everyone should take action now to prepare themselves and their families for hurricanes and powerful storms. Develop a family communications plan, build an emergency supply kit for your home, and take time to learn evacuation routes for your area. Knowing what to do ahead of time can literally save your life and help you bounce back stronger and faster should disaster strike in your area.”
For more information on hurricane and forecasts for the Atlantic Basin, head over to the National Hurricane Center’s Website.