Here We Go Again – It’s Hurricane Season 2017; What’s the Forecast?

2 06 2017

Dale C. S. Destin |

When you live in “Hurricane Alley” like we do, you often don’t want to think about the hurricane season before it starts – it’s too stressful. But you really should, as preparation is key to survival. If you are now preparing for the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, you are late, but there is still some time left.

What to prepare for – What’s the forecast?

Key to your preparations is to know what to prepare for. From this vantage point, we will most likely have a near normal hurricane season. Normally, the season has 12 named storms (tropical storms and hurricanes), 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. This year, our ensemble (mean) forecast is for 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

2017JuneHurricaneSeasonForecast1

A better indicator of the activity for the season is the accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) index. This is a measurement of the potential of wind and storm surge destruction of a named storm. Summing together the ACE index of each named storm, provides a more complete picture of activity for a season, outside of just the number of storms. The mean ACE index forecast for this year is 110; the average is 106 (1981-2010).

The latest forecast represents an uptick in the activity for the season. The previous forecast called for a below normal hurricane season – 11 named storms, 6 becoming hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes, with an ACE of 71. This was predicated on the forecast of an El Nino during the heart of the season.

El Nino normally inhibits tropical cyclone (tropical depression, tropical storm and hurricane) activity. However, over the past few months, an El Nino seems less likely, delayed or insignificant, if developed; hence, the uptick in the activity for the season.

Also, contributing to the uptick in the forecast activity for the season is the forecast of warmer than normal sea surface temperatures across the tropical north Atlantic and lighter than normal trade winds. All things relish by tropical cyclones.

2017HurricaneNames

Our forecast is the ensemble (mean) of the forecasts from Klotzbach of Colorado State University, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Saunders and Lea of Tropical Storm Risk.com (TSR), the Integrated Forecast System (IFS) of the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts (ECMWF), UK Met Office and The Weather Company (TWC).

It must be noted that NOAA is the only group, of the five surveyed, that is forecasting an above normal season.

So, that’s the forecast – what is the probability of Antigua being hit?

The probability of Antigua being hit or brushed by one or more named storm this year is around 63% – up 14% from the average of 49%. The probability of one or more hurricanes is 22% – down 15% from the average of 37%.

These numbers were calculated based ONLY on the likely best similar years (1957, 1969, 1979 and 2006) to the upcoming hurricane season according to Klotzbach. Of these years, we were hit by Tropical Storms Claudette, Frederic and Chris and brushed by Hurricane David.

Notwithstanding, at the end of the day, these numbers don’t mean a whole lot. We could be hit by one or more named storms or none at all. Bottomline – we truly do not know what is going to happen, with any certainty. However, what we do know, with absolute certainty, is that storms and hurricanes form every year, and we could get hit, as we have many times in the past. So, regardless of the probabilities and forecasts, we need to prepare. It only takes one tropical cyclone to set you back for years.

A season can produce many storms, but have little impact, or produce few storms and have one or more hitting Antigua with major impact.

Antigua averages one hurricane every three years and one named storm every two years or every other year.

What happened last season – 2016?

The 2016 season was more active than normal – the first active season since 2012 and the most active since 2010. It spawned 15 named storms, 7 became hurricanes and 3 reached major hurricane status. The strongest hurricane for the season was Matthew, which had peak sustained winds of 258 km/h (160 mph).

Satellite Image of Hurricane Matthew - Sep 30, 2016

Satellite Image of Hurricane Matthew – Sep 30, 2016

Hurricane Matthew also caused the most devastation. In total, up to 600 deaths have been attributed to the system, including over 500 in Haiti, making it one of the deadliest Atlantic hurricanes.

Hurricane Matthew 2016

Rainfall Trail From Hurricane Matthew 2016

The 2016 season is the first year since 2008 that no tropical cyclone hit or brushed Antigua. It was likely the least stressful hurricane season for the island in, at least, eight years.

The 2017 season is forecast to be similar to 2016.

The hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30.

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