The 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Early Forecast

7 04 2017

Dale C. S. Destin |

Good news! The early forecasts just issued for the upcoming 2017 Atlantic hurricane season (AHS) indicate a below normal season is most likely. This is forecast to be most evident in the number of hurricanes that forms (see graphic below). It could be as quiet as the 2014 and 2015 seasons. Nevertheless, the usual complete preparations are still very much required.

Ensemble forecast

The ensemble (mean) forecast, based on predictions from Klotzbach of Colorado State University, Saunders and Lea of Tropical Storm Risk.com (TSR) and AccuWeather.com, is for 11 named storms, 4 becoming hurricanes and 2 becoming major hurricanes.

2017HurricaneSeason

A better indicator of the activity for the season is the accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) index which is a measurement of the strength and duration of each tropical cyclone. Summing together the ACE of each cyclone, provides a more complete picture of how active the season is likely to be outside of just the number of storms.

This year, the ensemble forecast calls for an ACE index of 71. If this forecast pans out, the 2016 season would be around 30% less active than normal.

It must be noted though that there is very low skill in forecasting the AHS (June to November) in April. However, this is the best available forecast for the season, from this vantage point, and can be used as a guide for what is possible. A more skilful forecast will be available around June 1.

El Nino

 The development of an El Nino is the main climate factor that is forecasts to cause the hurricane season to be quieter than normal. El Nino is virtually synonymous with inactive AHSs, as it causes unfavourable conditions for tropical cyclones (tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes). The main one being the creation of strong winds aloft that inhibits or rips tropical cyclones apart.

However, regardless of the above probabilities and forecasts, this is not a licence to do anything differently for this hurricane season. The same comprehensive preparations are required to deal successfully with any eventuality. It only takes one tropical cyclone to set you back for years. Recall – Gonzalo struck us in a quiet year – 2014.

New and improved products

As is the case annually, there are new and improved products that will be on show. The most significant of which will be the issuing of watches, warnings and advisories for potential tropical cyclones.  A potential tropical cyclone is being defined as a disturbance that has the potential to produce tropical storm or hurricane conditions to land areas within 48 hours.

This new product is expected to be a game-changer as it will eliminate surprise storms and hurricanes and increase the lead time for preparations for rapidly developing disturbances approaching land. If such a product were in place for Gonzalo of 2014, Antigua would have likely fared much better.

Click here for other new and improved products.

2016 hurricane season summary

The 2016 AHS was active – the first active (above normal) season since 2012 and the most active since 2010, based on the ACE index. It produced 15 named storms. Of the 15, 7 became hurricanes and 4 reached major hurricane status – at least Category 3 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale. The strongest tropical cyclone for the season was Major Hurricane (MH) Matthew with peak winds of 160 mph and minimum pressure of 934 millibars.

Hurricane Matthew caused the most devastation. In total, up to 600 deaths have been attributed to the storm, including over 500 in Haiti, making it the deadliest Atlantic hurricane since Stan in 2005.

The 2016 season is the first year since 2008 no tropical cyclone passed within 121 miles of Antigua. It was likely the least stressful AHS for the island in, at least, eight years.

Follow us and stay updated on the 2017 AHS via our social media platform, which includes twitter, facebook, wordpress, instagram, tumblr, and google+. Follow us also for all things weather and climate.





Become Hurricane Strong by Taking Action Now

15 05 2016

Dale C. S. Destin |

The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season starts in 17 days – June 1, and runs until November 30. The season is forecast to have near normal activity – 13 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

Regardless of the forecast, the same detailed preparations are required to protect life, property and livelihoods. As we say in the meteorological community, it only takes one to change your life and community. Recall, notwithstanding last year’s hurricane season being quiet, Erika caused catastrophic damage to Dominica.

May 15-21 is designated hurricane preparedness week in the U.S. – the time to prepare for potential tropical cyclones (tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes) over the upcoming six months. We have no such week here, but we have a shared enemy; hence, we need to prepare similarly. The following are the seven actions required now to become “hurricane strong” i.e. resilient to tropical cyclones.

Determine your risk from tropical cyclones. Disaster risk is inversely proportional to knowledge – meaning the more knowledge you have on the subject the lower your risk is likely to be. Depressions, storms and hurricanes are not just about high winds, other associated hazards are inland flooding, storm surge, rip currents and tornadoes. Know the potential hazards that could affect your location and prepare to mitigate them. Local knowledge could be crucial in this regard, so seek it, especially with respect to flooding (See our tropical cyclone climatology).

All Antigua Named Storms

All the named storms to have affected Antigua – 1851-2014. Credit NOAA

Develop an evacuation plan if you live in an area that will need to be evacuated or if your home is deemed unsafe to ride out a tropical cyclone. Public shelters should be a last resort, so try to arrange to have the home of a friend or relative as your evacuation destination, if need be.

Secure an insurance check-up to ascertain that you have adequate coverage for your home and content. You especially need to ensure that you have coverage for wind and flood damage – the two main destructive hazards of depressions, storms and hurricanes.

Assemble disaster supplies now so as to avoid long lines and potential scarcity before and after a tropical cyclone. This is one of the most important elements of being “hurricane strong”. Supplies should be enough to last for at least one week after the event and should include things such as non-perishable food items, water, portable radio and batteries.

Strengthen your home, if possible, to be able to withstand, at least, a Category 3 hurricane. The best place to ride out a storm is in your own home. So, if you have questions about its strength, get a qualified professional to evaluate it, and if it can be retrofitted, do it. In the long run, it will be far cheaper than going to a shelter and leaving your property to be blown away.

Identify your trusted sources of information for a hurricane event. Your national meteorological service is your most trusted source – in the Antigua and Barbuda context, it’s the Antigua and Barbuda Meteorological Service through its website and hotline: 4634638.

Trusted information can also be had from the following social media accounts:

Your disaster management agency, in our case – the National Office of Disaster Service (NODS) will provide disaster management services to reduce the risk of the inclement weather.

Both your met office and disaster management agency will partner with a number of media outlets to get the information out. For us, the Antigua and Broadcasting Service (ABS) will be foremost partner.

Complete your written hurricane plan now, before the hurricane season starts. The time to write your plan is not when you are steering down the barrel of a hurricane. Under such conditions, you are likely to forget crucial things or make the wrong decisions. Your written plan should include where you are going to ride out the storm and a communication strategy.

Start preparing for the hurricane season today and become “hurricane strong”. Follow us via social media for the latest updates.





Hurricane Season Again!!!

10 04 2014

By Dale C. S. Destin |

It looks like we may have a repeat of last year’s hurricane season. Early forecasts for this year’s Atlantic hurricane season indicate that it could make it two seasons in a row of quiet conditions. That would be a relief to many residents of Antigua and the Caribbean.

According to the UK-based Tropical Storm Risk (TSR), the Weather Channel (WC) and Colorado State University (CSU), the consensus is for around 11 named storms of which four will become hurricanes and two major hurricanes – Category 3 or stronger – this hurricane season. Those numbers are pretty normal. Based on the period 1950-2012, the hurricane season usually generates 11 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Notwithstanding, the consensus of TSR and CSU is that the accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) index going to be roughly 35% below average. The ACE index is the measurement that takes into account the strength and duration of each tropical cyclone. Summing together the ACE of each cyclone, provides a snapshot of how active the season was outside of just the number of storms.

If these forecasts pan out, the 2014 hurricane season would be the fourth quietest since 1995, when the hurricane season went from a quiet phase to an active one. The average ACE since 1995 is 134, whereas, the ACE for 2014 is predicted to be 65 by consensus. This would also make this the quietest two year period since 1995.

However, the TSR forecast, in particular, was quick to point out that there are large uncertainties as to how the season will actually play out and the forecast skill, for this time of the year, is very low.  In fact, last year’s early season forecasts offer a cautionary tale. The main factors pointing to an inactive hurricane season are the likelihood of El Nino and cool tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures (SSTs).

Busted Forecasts

Last year was a major failure for hurricane season forecasters. Of the dozen or so forecasts issued, all were “a complete bust”. This came as a surprise as the tropical Pacific SSTs was average to slightly cool and the tropical Atlantic SSTs were warmer than normal. More often than not, this is a recipe for an active Atlantic hurricane season. Admittedly though, although not perfect, these forecasts normally perform much better.

2013 Hurricane Season Tracks

2013 Hurricane Season Tracks

Overall, there were 14 named storms, but only two became hurricanes. Both were weak Category 1 hurricanes.

Despite the slightly above normal number of named storms, the 2013 season tied with 1982 for the record fewest hurricanes since 1950. And 2013 was the first time since 1994 that there were no major hurricanes, something that’s only happened three other seasons since 1950, (1968 1972 1986). Further, this was the first time since 1968 that an Atlantic hurricane season failed to produce a Category 2 hurricane. Also telling was the season’s ACE index score, which is just 30% of the 1950 – 2012 average.

The Blame for Last Year

The low activity in 2013 is being blamed on an “unpredictable atmospheric pattern that prevented the growth of storms by producing exceptionally dry, sinking air and strong vertical wind shear in much of the main hurricane formation region, which spans the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA. Bell also said that “detrimental to some tropical cyclones this year [2013] were strong outbreaks of dry and stable air that originated over Africa.”

Similar explanations for the notably quiet season have also come from other scientists such as Chris Landsea, a meteorologist at the US National Hurricane Center and Philip Klotzbach, a hurricane researcher and seasonal hurricane forecaster at CSU.

Klotzbach also said that recent research has led researchers to “attribute a sizeable portion” of the negative hurricane conditions to the springtime weakening of the Atlantic Ocean overturning circulation. He said that a strong circulation favours high activity and a weak circulation favours low activity. According to Klotzbach, the 2013 spring circulation dropped to the “weakest since 1950.” There is ongoing research by other organizations to better understand the factors that contributed to the almost hurrcaneless season.

Hurricane Drought Continues

TS Chantal moving through the Caribbean - 2013

TS Chantal moving through the Caribbean – 2013

The 2013 season marks the 14th consecutive year of our hurricane drought. Since Jose and Lenny both made landfall in Antigua in 1999, the island has been spared from hurricane-force winds.

TS Chantal's Tornado

TS Chantal’s Tornado

This is not to say that the island has not been affected by any tropical cyclones since 1999 but rather none has caused any winds in excess of 73 mph to affect the country. This was also the first time since 2005 that no storm passed within 120 miles of Antigua. But of course, winds are not the only threat from tropical cyclones. Last year, we experienced one of the rare threats in this part of the world. Although Tropical Storm Chantal passed about 178 miles to the south, it spawned a tornado which proved destructive to Camp Blizzard.

Consecutive quiet hurricane seasons are most welcome. And although some may have felt letdown by the failure of the forecasts last year, most of us were ecstatic that the season was very slow. Over the next days and months, other organizations will issue their take on the 2014 season, which runs from June 1 to November 30. We look forward with bated breath to similar or better (lower) numbers. However, it is important to remember that regardless of the number of storms forecast for the season, it only takes one to ruin our year, so be prepared. I will keep you posted.

Follow at @anumetservice








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