The first of the seasonal hurricane forecasts have come out in the last week or so, with outlooks from both the group at Colorado State University (CSU) and a group closer to home at NCSU now available. NOAA should be adding their forecast before much longer, though it seems likely to follow the trend of the other two.
Overall, the forecasters are noting, among other factors, Atlantic ocean temperatures in the principal tropical cyclone generation areas that seem likely to run a bit cooler than recent years, and also the decay of La Nina in the Pacific, which has been present last season but which is just about over now as the Pacific ocean transitions to a more neutral pattern that is expected to last through the summer and into the fall.
Given that La Nina is often associated with higher-than-average numbers of tropical cyclones in the Atlantic, its dissipation becomes a factor in expecting a near normal or slightly below normal tropical season ahead. As a review, last year there were 19 named storms (compared to a 1981-2010 median of 12), including Irene, of course, which had major impacts on eastern NC.
The projections for the season include an expectation for:
Named storms - (10 CSU, 7-10 NCSU) versus a median for 1981-2010 of 12
Hurricanes - (4 CSU, 4-7 NCSU) versus a median of 6.5
Major Hurricanes of Category Three or higher - (2 CSU, 1-3 NCSU) versus a median of 2
These numbers indicate near to a little below normal activity in terms of total numbers of named storms and hurricanes, but about average for major hurricanes which are rather infrequent on average anyway (with a few exceptional seasons on occasion). For more details on the respective forecasts and how they were arrived at, see the links I included above.
As always, these numbers are interesting and it can be valuable to have a sense of the overall seasonal activity, but they can not tell us when and where individual cyclones will form, track and potentially strike, leaving us to hope for the best, but keep in mind the fact that even if there are relatively few storms, that doesn't help much of one of them moves into your area ...