Monday, August 13, 2018
Tampa Bay Weather

First 2017 hurricane forecast calls for below-average season, 11 named storms

The first hurricane forecast of 2017 from Colorado State University's Department of Atmospheric Science calls for a slightly below average season and 11 named storms this year.

Researchers believe the formation of storms will be suppressed by an impending El Niño, the phenomenon of warmer-than-average water temperatures in the eastern and central Pacific.

The warmer waters tend to strengthen high-altitude winds that swirl over the tropical Atlantic Ocean, essentially blowing apart storms and making it harder for them to condense into dangerous cyclones.

"El Niños are good news for the Atlantic," said the forecast's lead author, Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at the university. "It's not 100 percent, but it's looking more likely than not that El Niño will come."

The forecast will be updated on June 1, the official start of hurricane season. This year's forecast is slightly lower than the median of 12 storms between 1981 and 2010.

The report also predicts that there will be six hurricanes among those 11 named storms: four hurricanes and two major hurricanes, which are Category 3 storms and above with sustained wind speeds of at least 111 mph. The medians between 1981 and 2010 were 6.5 hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

The forecast also suggests a lower-than-normal chance of cyclones making landfall along the U.S. coastline.

Colorado State's initial forecast last year underestimated what turned into a hyperactive storm season, which included Hurricane Hermine, the first hurricane in 11 years to make landfall in Florida. Hermine, a Category 1 storm when it came ashore in Apalachee Bay on Sept. 2, wreaked havoc on the Gulf Coast and caused significant damage to shore towns like Cedar Key. In all, the storm killed two people and caused an estimated $550 million damage.

Weeks later, Hurricane Matthew tore through the Caribbean as a Category 5 storm and skirted Florida's Atlantic coast on Oct. 7, weakened but still dangerous. Even though it never made landfall, Matthew did an incredible amount of damage. There were 585 deaths linked to the storm, more than 90 percent of which were in Haiti.

In the U.S., there were 34 deaths, including two people who died in Florida as a direct result of Matthew. The hurricane forced more than 3 million people to evacuate from coastal regions in the southeastern and mid-atlantic states. It also caused about $10 billion of damage in the U.S. alone, making it the 10th most destructive hurricane to affect the nation.

During Florida's unprecedented hurricane drought, experts warned that millions of people moved into the state who had never experienced hurricanes before and were unfamiliar with the dangers. And they feared that longtime Floridians had also grown complacent.

"The 2016 hurricane season showed the state of Florida that yeah, we really are vulnerable to hurricanes," said Dennis Feltgen, meteorologist and spokesman for the National Hurricane Center. "This was an experience to people who had never been through one and a wake up call to those who had experience with them."

Will Floridians be more prepared this year?

"I would think so," he said. "Particularly those that were directly impacted by the hurricanes, absolutely."

Another factor contributing to this year's below average outlook is the water temperatures in the tropical and north Atlantic ocean. North Atlantic temperatures have been colder, while tropical Atlantic temperatures plummeted from warmer-than-normal temperatures to cooler-than-normal temperatures in just the last couple weeks. Colder water suppresses hurricanes, which feed on warm water.

Colder Atlantic waters and El Niño would have a synergistic effect, working together to suppress storms. Klotzbach predicts there will be 50 days during which a named storm exists, and 16 hurricane days. The median during that period from 1981 to 2010 is 60.1 and 21.3 days, respectively.

Landfall probabilities, too, are lower than their long-term average. The chance of a hurricane making landfall on the American east coast, including Florida, is 51 percent, according to Klotzbach's forecast. That coast has been hit at least once by a hurricane in 61 of the last 100 years.

The chances of a hurricane striking the entire coastline — including the Gulf of Mexico, so from Maine to the U.S.-Mexican border — is 75 percent. Data suggests the probability of landfall over the last century is 84 percent.

Another thing to keep in mind this year, Klotzbach said, is that there has been a lot of late-season hurricane activity in recent years.

September, he said, is normally the peak of the season, "but last year was an unusual season in that it was pretty quiet through September, and then October was very active." Last year, Hurricane Nicole struck Bermuda in October and Hurricane Otto formed in late November, making it the latest storm on record to form in the Atlantic.

Even though Colorado State's forecast for this year calls for a less active season and below normal chances of a storm making landfall, Klotzbach said it's important for residents up and down the coast to keep their guard up.

"Even if our forecasts are dead on perfect, we can't predict where the storms are going to go," he said, "and it only takes one for it to be an active season for you."

Contact Josh Solomon at (813) 909-4613 or [email protected] Follow @josh_solomon15.

Comments
A wet first day back to school for many Tampa Bay students

A wet first day back to school for many Tampa Bay students

Children across the Tampa Bay area head to their first day of classes Monday in wet, muggy conditions, but things should improve by the second half of the week as more dry air shifts into the Tampa Bay area. Parents will want to bring an umbrella ...
Published: 08/13/18
Forecast: Heat, scattered thunderstorms in Tampa Bay

Forecast: Heat, scattered thunderstorms in Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — Tampa Bay can expect scattered thunderstorms and heat Sunday.Temperatures will reach about 88 degrees, according to the National Weather Service, but the heat index will climb as high as 97.Scattered showers and thunderstorms will t...
Published: 08/12/18
Tampa forecast: Thunderstorms and heavy rains possible

Tampa forecast: Thunderstorms and heavy rains possible

Thunderstorms with possible heavy rainfall will again move through the Tampa Bay area Saturday, according to the National Weather Service.EXTENDED FORECAST: The 10-day outlook for the Tampa Bay areaAs of Saturday morning, most storms were concentrate...
Published: 08/11/18
Look for a muggy, but drier morning as Hillsborough students head back to school

Look for a muggy, but drier morning as Hillsborough students head back to school

It’s looking to be a fairly muggy morning with partly cloudy skies as Hillsborough County students head back to school today.The National Weather Service reports an area of high pressure holding over the Gulf of Mexico as a strong influence over the ...
Published: 08/10/18
NOAA now predicting below-normal Atlantic hurricane season in 2018

NOAA now predicting below-normal Atlantic hurricane season in 2018

Hurricane experts with the federal government downgraded their predictions on Thursday for the rest of hurricane season, saying there’s a 60 percent chance the final months will bring below-average storm activity.That’s a significant shift from origi...
Published: 08/09/18
Hurricane Maria death toll of 1,427 in Puerto Rico far exceeds earlier estimates

Hurricane Maria death toll of 1,427 in Puerto Rico far exceeds earlier estimates

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico — Puerto Rico is now estimating that Hurricane Maria killed more than 1,400 people, far more than the official death toll of 64, in a report to Congress seeking billions to help the island recover from the devastating storm. The...
Published: 08/09/18
Morning showers a thing of past as high pressure takes hold over Tampa Bay

Morning showers a thing of past as high pressure takes hold over Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay area should see plenty of sunshine to close out this week as an area of high pressure begins to move east toward the Gulf of Mexico, virtually eliminating those pesky early-morning storms.For Thursday, afternoon temperatures will rise t...
Published: 08/09/18
Hot, dry air across Tampa Bay will give way to increased rain chances this weekend

Hot, dry air across Tampa Bay will give way to increased rain chances this weekend

Plenty of sunshine will warm up the Tampa Bay area throughout the rest of this week, with a low chance of scattered showers popping up late in the evenings. Over the weekend, the chance of rain will increase slightly as more moisture moves into the a...
Published: 08/08/18
Tropical Storm Debby forecast to fizzle out in north Atlantic

Tropical Storm Debby forecast to fizzle out in north Atlantic

A subtropical system has transitioned into Tropical Storm Debby, but it is not expected to impact land as it meanders far out in the north Atlantic.As of 5 a.m. Wednesday, the storm had maximum sustained winds of 45 mph and was located about 1,175 mi...
Published: 08/08/18
Subtropical Storm Debby forms in north Atlantic

Subtropical Storm Debby forms in north Atlantic

Subtropical Storm Debby formed in the north Atlantic Tuesday morning, according to the U.S. National Hurricane Center. It is expected to be a short-lived storm that will dissipate after a few days. As of 11 a.m., Debby was reported to be centered abo...
Published: 08/07/18