Published: 2014-04-10 11:35:00
Updated: 2014-04-10 22:30:58
Posted April 10, 2014
By Nate Johnson
Colorado State University forecasters expect a quieter-than-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic basin in 2014.
Their forecast calls for nine named tropical storms with maximum sustained winds of at least 39 mph, three hurricanes with maximum sustained winds of 74 mph and one major hurricane with winds of at least 111 mph. These numbers are well below the 1981-2010 averages of 12, 6.5, and two, respectively.
One key factor in the forecast is the expected development of an El Niño, or warming in the waters in the equatorial Pacific off the west coast of South America. Dr. Philip Klotzbach, the lead author on the forecast, told the National Tropical Weather Conference.
"I am aggressive in expecting a moderate-to-strong El Niño to develop this year," he said.
El Niño conditions produce stronger wind shear across the Atlantic, which makes it more difficult for hurricanes to form and strengthen.
Dr. Klotzbach and his forecast partner, Dr. William Gray, also noted a connection between the overall weather pattern in the northern Atlantic that has led to a cooler-than-normal finish to the winter along the east coast and changes in the temperature and salinity circulations in the Atlantic.
The resulting persistent northerly winds in the eastern Atlantic have caused sea-surface temperatures to run cooler than normal; although, sea-surface temperatures are warmer-than-normal in the western Atlantic, including off the southeastern coast of the United States.
The Colorado State forecast group also provides probabilistic forecasts of land-falling storms.
The forecast calls for a 35 percent chance of a landfall along the US coast with a 20 percent chance of a storm affecting the East Coast, specifically.
Klotzbach and Gray's forecast includes an 18 percent chance of a hurricane affecting North Carolina, including not only a direct landfall but storm remnants moving over the state. These remnants can produce heavy rain and flooding, especially in the mountainous areas.
While the overall forecast is for a queiter-than-normal season, Klotzbach warned that it "only takes one storm" to cause major problems.
Citing Gray's forecast for a single major hurricane in 1992, "that one major hurricane was Andrew, and we all remember that one. Just because we are forecasting a quiet season doesn't mean people shouldn't prepare."