Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Hurricane experts drop December forecasts, citing inaccuracy

Every year around Christmas, two of the country's top hurricane experts offer Floridians a gift nobody seems to want: next year's hurricane season predictions.

Coming at the end of a six-month hurricane season, the numbers long have been criticized for stoking hurricane anxiety and having little practical value.

Now, after 20 years, forecasters Bill Gray and Phil Klotzbach have decided to drop the December forecast, acknowledging what Floridians have suspected for a long time: The early forecast isn't very accurate.

The forecasters at Colorado State University will continue making predictions in April, June and August, which they say have improved in recent years.

The main difficulty with the December forecast is the unpredictability of El Niño. The massive shift of warm surface water to the east Pacific Ocean can dramatically reduce the likelihood of hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

Starting this year, the forecasters will release a qualitative report in December on the upcoming season, talking more about general trends in the factors that cause hurricanes, such as the El Niño and surface water temperatures in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico.

On the title page of this year's report, the researchers explain the change through a quip from billionaire Warren Buffett:

"It is better to be qualitatively right than quantitatively wrong," it reads.

Many meteorologists applauded the change.

"It's about time," said Jeff Masters, chief meteorologist of Weather Underground. "I think it's a great idea. They've been doing it for 20 years and they've had no skill, so why continue?"

Bay News 9 chief metrologist Mike Clay agreed.

"That's the proper scientific method," he said. "They gave it 20 years."

Although the early predictions weren't very accurate, Clay said they helped researchers learn about climate patterns and that predicting an upcoming hurricane season in December is extremely difficult.

While some seasonal projections have badly missed the mark, Gray and Klotzbach came pretty close this year.

They predicted 17 named storms, nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes packing winds of 111 mph or more. The season saw 19 named storms and seven hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

Meteorologists and emergency managers say the absence of the December forecast will have little impact outside the scientific community and won't affect storm preparations.

The message stays the same.

It doesn't matter how active the forecast is supposed to be, all it takes is one storm to devastate a community.

Hurricane experts drop December forecasts, citing inaccuracy 12/14/11 [Last modified: Wednesday, December 14, 2011 10:27pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Winner and loser of the week in Florida politics

    Blogs
  2. Jones: Bucs need success to get national respect

    Bucs

    Tampa Bay Times columnist Tom Jones offers up his Two Cents on the world of sports.

    No respect

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Dirk Koetter walks the field during the second day of mandatory minicamp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, June 14, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times
  3. Hopes fade after landslide destroys Chinese village (w/video)

    World

    Crews searching through the night in the rubble left by a landslide that buried a mountain village under tons of soil and rocks in southwestern China found 15 bodies, but more than 110 more people remained missing.

    Vehicles and people line a road leading to the site of a landslide in Xinmo village in Mao County on Saturday in southwestern China’s Sichuan Province. More than 100 people remained missing after the village was buried under tons of rocks and soil.
  4. Rookie Jake Faria dissatisfied with performance in Rays' loss to Orioles

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — The rookie pitcher walked to his locker Saturday after tossing the fourth quality start in as many tries to begin his career. He held the potent Orioles bats to three runs and for six innings gave his team a chance to win.

    Orioles third baseman Manny Machado tags out the Rays’ Mallex Smith at third after a rundown in the first inning.
  5. Thousands converge in two St. Pete locations celebrating LGBT rights

    Human Interest

    ST. PETERSBURG — Tom Rockhill didn't know what to expect Saturday, but by noon people were knocking on the door of his bar Right Around the Corner in Grand Central.

    (From left to right) Emma Chalut 18, gets a rainbow sticker on her cheek from her sister Ellie, 15 both of Jacksonville before the annual St. Pete Pride parade in downtown St. Petersburg on Saturday. This year the route was changed from the Grand Central and Kenwood area to Bayshore Drive.
[EVE EDELHEIT   |   Times]