In a recent update, The Weather Company increased its seasonal hurricane forecast to a total of 14 named storms – seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes – this season, making 2017 potentially the most active hurricane year on record.
One reason for the increase has to do with consistent warming of the sea surface – a factor that has historically correlated with more active seasons.
The update also noted that there is a reduced potential for the development and strength of El Niño later this summer – a factor that typically reduces hurricane activity.
Given both of these factors, another increase in the next update could be likely. Explains, Dr. Todd Crawford, chief meteorologist with The Weather Company, “The historically strong North Atlantic blocking event in early May also suggests the possibility of continued increases in North Atlantic sea-surface temperature anomalies, so it would be no surprise if we increased our forecast numbers again.”
Yet while the update may be unnerving for those who live in hurricane prone areas, it doesn’t necessarily mean a rash of devastating hurricanes.
For one thing, there is no strong correlation between the number of storms or hurricanes and U.S. landfalls in any given season. One or more of the 11 to 14 named storms forecast to develop this season could hit the U.S., or none at all.
As an example, the 1992 season produced only six named storms and one subtropical storm. However, one of those named storms was Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida as a Category 5 hurricane.
On the other hand, in 1983 there were only four named storms, but one of them was Alicia. The Category 3 hurricane hit the Houston-Galveston area and caused almost as many direct fatalities there as Andrew did in South Florida.
In contrast, in 2010, there were 19 named storms and 12 hurricanes that formed in the Atlantic Basin, yet not a single hurricane and only one tropical storm made landfall in the United States.
In short, the number of storms and hurricanes doesn’t seem to correlate with the number, or strength, of hurricanes that actually make landfall.
For people in hurricane prone areas, the takeaway is that it is better to always be ready for a hurricane than wait for an increase in the hurricane forecast to take action.
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