AUBURN, Alabama — The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season begins June 1. That week throughout the nation is Hurricane Awareness Week. A campaign led by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, the Federal Emergency Management Agency and storm-vulnerable states are encouraging residents to increase their awareness and preparedness for the upcoming hurricane season. The peak period of the season is August through October.
Forecaster Predictions for 2017
For the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, forecasters predict a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 35 percent chance of a near-normal season and only a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season.
Forecasters predict a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which five to nine could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including two to four major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). An average season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.
Also, these numbers include Tropical Storm Arlene, a rare preseason storm that formed over the eastern Atlantic in April.
Weak El Nino
“The outlook reflects our expectation of a weak or non-existent El Nino, near- or above-average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in that same region,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with National Oceanic and Atmosphere Administration Climate Prediction Center.
Strong El Ninos and wind shear typically suppress development of Atlantic hurricanes. The prediction for weak conditions points to more hurricane activity this year. Also, warmer sea surface temperatures tend to fuel hurricanes as they move across the ocean. However, climate models are showing considerable uncertainty, which is reflected in the comparable probabilities for an above-normal and near-normal season.
“NOAA’s broad range of expertise and resources support the nation with strong science and service before, during and after each storm to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy as we continue building a Weather-Ready Nation,” said Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator.
“Regardless of how many storms develop this year, it only takes one to disrupt our lives,” said Acting Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Robert J. Fenton, Jr.
The 2016 season was the most active since 2012, with 15 named storms, including seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes.
NOAA will update this outlook in early August, just before the peak of the season.
Predictions for Pacific Hurricanes
In addition, NOAA also issued seasonal hurricane outlooks for the eastern Pacific and central Pacific hurricane basins. An 80 percent chance of a near- or above-normal season is predicted for each region. Furthermore, the eastern Pacific outlook also calls for a 70 percent probability of 14 to 20 named storms. Six to 11 are expected to become hurricanes, including three to seven major hurricanes. The central Pacific outlook calls for a 70 percent probability of five to eight tropical cyclones, which includes tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes.
For more information on preparing for storms or storm recovery, download Alabama Extension’s free iBook at https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/emergency-handbook/id1022730765?mt=11&ign-mpt=uo%3D4. The Emergency Handbook brings together recommendations from national emergency response agencies and major universities into one easy-to-understand, interactive reference. It addresses nearly 50 disaster preparation and recovery topics in four broad categories, including: People and Pets, Home and Business, Landscape and Garden, and Farms and Livestock.