Ac­tive hur­ri­cane sea­son is pos­si­ble

Palm Beach Daily News - - TODAY - By KIM­BERLY MILLER

A key sea­sonal hur­ri­cane fore­cast is call­ing for an above nor­mal num­ber of storms this year, the first time since 2013 that its May pre­dic­tion clearly points to an unusu­ally ac­tive At­lantic basin.

At­mo­spheric clues plucked from the sur­face of the sea and col­umns of sky led the Cli­mate Pre­dic­tion Cen­ter to the con­clu­sion that El Niño may be a no-show, leav­ing a ripe en­vi­ron­ment for trop­i­cal cy­clone formation.

The­cen­ter, which is part of the Na­tional Oceanic and At­mo­spheric Ad­min­is­tra­tion, said Thurs­day it pre­dicts 11 to 17 named storms, five to nine hur­ri­canes, and two to four ma­jor hur­ri­canes of Cat­e­gory 3 strength or higher. The fore­cast in­cludes Trop­i­cal Storm Ar­lene, which formed in April in the faroff At­lantic.

“We are ex­pect­ing a lot of ac­tiv­ity this sea­son,” said Gerry Bell, lead sea­sonal hur­ri­cane fore­caster for NOAA’s Cli­mate Pre­dic­tion Cen­ter. “There is a com­bi­na­tion of fac­tors point­ing to a more ac­tive sea­son — El Niño, warmer than av­er­age ocean tem­per­a­tures, wind shear.”

Bell said there is only a 20 per­cent chance that the sea­son will be be­low nor­mal. An av­er­age sea­son has 12 named storms, six hur­ri­canes and three ma­jor hur­ri­canes.

Early-sea­son fore­casts are no­to­ri­ously chal­leng­ing with shifts oc­cur­ring as win­ter turns to spring. The cen­ter will put out an­other pre­dic­tion in Au­gust that may amend Thurs­day’s re­port as more data is col­lected in June and July.

In April, Colorado State Uni­ver­sity hur­ri­cane re­searcher Phil Klotzbach fore­cast a less ac­tive hur­ri­cane sea­son this year. But he’s since hinted that he may amend that fore­cast in an up­dated June 1 pre­dic­tion, in­creas­ing the num­ber of storms to av­er­age at least.

Ac­cuWeather, which released its 2017 hur­ri­cane fore­cast the same week as Klotzbach, also called for a be­low-av­er­age storm sea­son. The Weather Co.’s late-April fore­cast called for an av­er­age sea­son. “If El Niño fails to launch, we may be too low with our num­bers,” Weather Co.’s chief me­te­o­rol­o­gist Todd Craw­ford said in April.

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