Active 2010 hurricane season forecast

This year’s non-eventful hurricane season will be a temporary respite, if Colorado State University scientists Phil Klotzbach and William Gray are correct.

The duo released their annual extended-range hurricane forecast Wednesday, and it calls for a 2010 hurricane season that will be more active than average.

The forecast calls for 11 to 16 named storms, six to eight hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher. The 50 year statistical average for an Atlantic basin hurricane season between 1950 and 2000 was 9.6 named storms, 5.9 hurricanes and 2.3 major hurricanes.

Klozbach and Gray base their forecasts partially using 58 years of hindsight methodology, by examining various climatology indicators in different parts of the world through November and then looking at the results of the following hurricane season.

Another major factor in their forecast concerns the current strong El Niño weather phenomenon in the tropical Pacific Ocean. El Niño’s tend to increase wind shear, something that is known to inhibit tropical cyclone formation and intensification, in the Caribbean and tropical western Atlantic Ocean. Scientists believe the strong El Niño during most of 2009 played a major role bringing one of the quietest hurricane seasons in the past 20 years.

Klotzbach and Gray doesn’t see it continuing.

‘We expect to see the moderate to strong El Niño event that is currently in progress diminish by the 2010 hurricane season,’ their forecast states.

However, the two scientists noted that it was too early to tell what will happen with the El Niño.

‘There is obviously a considerable amount of uncertainty as to what [El Niño] conditions will look like next year,’ their forecast states. ‘Most statistical and dynamical forecast models indicate that warm [El Niño] conditions will continue for the next few months, with some cooling during the upcoming spring.

‘However, there is very little forecast skill in [El Niño] model predictions from the late fall for the following summer/fall. We will be closely monitoring [El Niño] conditions over the next few months and will have more to say with our early April update.’

In addition to the waning of the El Niño, another factors cited for the more-active-than-average forecast for the next hurricane season included the fact that the Atlantic Ocean is in active multi-decadal phase of hurricane activity, which causes warmer sea-surface temperatures – another variable that helps in cyclone formation and intensification.

The long-range forecast also gives a 64 per cent probability that a major hurricane will make landfall somewhere along the US coastline and a 53 per cent probability that a major hurricane will track in the Caribbean Sea.