The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts a near or below average 2014 Atlantic hurricane season which begins on June 1 and lasts for 6 months.
Forecasters predict eight to 13 tropical storms, three to six of which will become hurricanes. One to two of those hurricanes could grow in strength and become Category 3 or higher storms, according to NOAA. Average named storms is 12, average hurricanes is 6 and average strong hurricanes a year is 3.
The seasonal numbers for 2014 are expected to be at or lower than average, but forecasters say even below average seasons can produce hurricanes.
Outlooks can be confusing and deceitful at times because If you talk to someone in a ‘quiet’ season that’s just been hit by the only hurricane of the year, I doubt they’d tell you it was ‘quiet.’ One is all it takes, and one destructive storm can change lives within hours. Remember Hurricane Andrew? It was the only hurricane to make landfall in 1992 - but it was catastrophic, Category 5.
So what do we get from an outlook? Well it could just be an idea of how active the season will be, and no doubt that helps us gauge overall risk. Chances are an active season would end up with more landfalls than a very quiet one, as far as probability goes. But outlooks, though well intentioned, are no lock. Last year is a prime example because it was forecast to be an extremely active year and it fell well short. It featured the fewest hurricanes since 1982, and not a single ‘Major’ (Category 3 or higher) hurricane developed.
Another issue with outlooks is the tendency for many is to focus on the hurricanes or major hurricane columns, but they are not the only destructive storms. Sandy was barely a hurricane at landfall, but its massive size allowed for a record-breaking storm surge in the most densely populated area of the U.S..
Tropical storms, even though their winds aren’t as strong, can dump large amounts of rain and lead to flooding which is a much bigger killer when it comes to tropical landfall than strong winds. Every storm is different. Some are rain-makers. Some are surge producers. Some are destructive wind machines. Some bring dozens of tornadoes inland. And some feature a combination of many of these risks. So while an outlook may have a few useful attributes, we urge all living along the coast to ALWAYS be prepared for the ONE potential storm.
Currently, NOAA is estimating a 65% chance of El Nino developing by late summer. During past El Nino years, hurricane development is usually lower than non El Nino years.
El Niño is the warming of the waters of the East Equatorial South Pacific. Warm water equals rising air which turns into strong upper level winds. When El Nino is occurring, wind shear increases over the tropical Atlantic. Unlike storms over the U.S. that last longer and are strongest when wind shear is high, the opposite effect happens to tropical storms. It blows the tops off developing thunderstorms and keeps them from forming into a more cohesive tropical system.
El Nino isn’t a ‘cure’ for hurricanes and they can, and do, still happen with a warm ENSO phase. There are many other variables at work though, like sea surface temperatures and Saharan dust for example. It’s something we’ll be watching closely this upcoming summer and just remember all it takes is 1 storm to make landfall to cause big problems.
Here's a look at the 2014 HURRICANE NAMES:
Jill Gilardi Fox 6 Meteorologist
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