Friday, May 25, 2012

Hurricane Watch: More on NOAA's 2012 Forecast

Jeff Masters at Wunderblog gets into some of the details of NOAA's Thursday release:
...The forecasters cited the following main factors that will influence the coming season:

1) Near-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs) are expected in the hurricane Main Development Region (MDR), from the Caribbean to the coast of Africa between between 10°N and 20°N. SSTs in the MDR during April were near-average, and are expected to remain so during hurricane season, based on current observations, climatology, and long-range model forecasts.

2) We are in an active period of hurricane activity that began in 1995, thanks to a natural decades-long cycle in hurricane activity called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO): "During 1995-2010, some key aspects of the tropical multi-decadal signal within the MDR have included reduced vertical wind shear and weaker easterly trade winds, below-average sea-level pressure, a configuration of the African easterly jet that is more conducive to hurricane development from tropical cloud systems (aka Easterly waves) moving off the African coast, and warmer than average SSTs."

3) An El Niño event may occur this year: "Another climate factor known to significantly impact Atlantic hurricane activity is the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO.) The three phases of ENSO are El Niño, La Niña, and ENSO-Neutral. El Niño events tend to suppress Atlantic hurricane activity, while La Niña events tend to enhance it (Gray 1984). If El Niño fails to develop, the probability of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season will be higher and the actual seasonal activity will likely be toward the upper end of our predicted ranges." There is currently of lot of uncertainty whether or not an El Niño event will develop in time for the August - September - October peak of hurricane season--the latest NOAA El Niño discussion is giving a 41% chance of an El Niño event during hurricane season, and a 48% chance of neutral conditions....MORE
We mentioned the ENSO probabilities in last month's "Excellent Timing: State of Florida Unloads $3/4 Billion of Hurricane Risk" and will have more on Tuesday.