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NOAA Revises Its Hurricane Season Prediction

Aug. 8, 2006 — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Tuesday weighed in with its updated hurricane prediction for the 2006 hurricane season. The agency's scientists think the season will see a total of 12 to 15 named storms, with seven to nine of them becoming hurricanes. Three to four should reach major hurricane status with winds over 111 mph.
Meanwhile, meteorologists at the National Weather Service in San Juan are keeping a weather eye on a disturbance located about 825 miles east of the Windward Islands.
Meteorologist Brian Seeley said it should reach the area sometime Thursday into Friday. Whether it will arrive as a tropical wave or a depression remains to be seen.
"It needs to get more organized before it develops, but it's not out of the question. People should keep an eye on it," Seeley said.
NOAA's hurricane season prediction is in line with what William Gray and Philip Klotzbach at Colorado State University said Aug. 3 when they predicted 15 named storms, with seven becoming hurricanes. They expect three of those to reach intense status. Gray and Klotzbach use the term "intense" rather than NOAA's "major" for those very strong hurricanes.
Both NOAA as well as Gray and Klotzbach lowered their earlier estimates. On June 1, NOAA predicted 13 to 16 named storms, with eight to 10 of them reaching hurricane status. The agency thought four to six of them would become major storms. Gray and Klotzbach on May 30 put the number at 17 named storms, with nine hurricanes and five intense hurricanes.
NOAA puts the seasonal average at 11 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. Gray's long-term average comes in at 9.6 named storms, with 5.9 of them becoming hurricanes and 2.3 reaching intense status.
So far, three named storms formed in hurricane season 2006.
"This year's three named storms may pale in comparison to the record nine storms that formed through early August 2005, but conditions will be favorable for above-normal activity for the rest of this season – so we are not off the hook by any means," retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher said in a news release issued Tuesday.
He is undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator.
Gerry Bell, NOAA's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster, said that unlike last year's extraordinary season, this season should be less active.
"Conditions this year reflect a more typical active season, with peak activity expected during August to October," he said.
Last hurricane season, a total of 26 named storms formed, with 14 becoming hurricanes and seven falling into the intense category.
Bell said the major climate factors expected to influence this year's activity are the "ongoing multi-decadal signal, which produces wind and atmospheric pressure patterns favorable for hurricane formation, along with ongoing warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures." NOAA attributes these same factors to the current active Atlantic hurricane era that began in 1995.
NOAA's seasonal outlook, however, does not specify where and when tropical storms and hurricanes could strike.
"Science has not evolved enough to accurately predict on seasonal timescales when and where these storms will likely make landfall," Bell said. "Exactly when and where landfall occurs is strongly controlled by the weather patterns in place as the storms approach land. These weather patterns generally cannot be predicted more than several days in advance."
Max Mayfield, director of the NOAA's National Hurricane Center, had some advice.
"As we approach the peak of the hurricane season, our message remains the same: be informed and be prepared. Preventing the loss of life and minimizing property damage from hurricanes are responsibilities shared by all. Remember, one hurricane hitting your neighborhood is enough to make it a bad season," he said.
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