National Weather Service Predicts 4 to 6 Major Hurricanes

May 22, 2006

Atlantic and Gulf states can expect a “very active” hurricane season, with 13 to 16 named storms, eight to 10 hurricanes and four to six major hurricanes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s 2006 Atlantic hurricane season outlook released May 22 by NOAAs National Weather Service Climate Prediction Center.

The latest outlook calls for an 80 percent of an above-normal hurricane season, a 15 percent chance of a near-normal season and only a 5 percent chance of a below-normal season.

NOAA predictions indicate a continuation of above-normal activity that began in 1995. However, the outlook said it does not expect a repeat of last year’s record season.

The predicted 2006 activity strongly reflects an expected continuation of conditions which have favored above-normal Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1995. These conditions include considerably warmer than normal sea surface temperatures, lower wind shear, reduced sea level pressure and a more conducive structure of the African easterly jet.

An updated Atlantic hurricane outlook will be issued in early August, which begins the peak months (August-October) of the hurricane season.

Although NOAA expects a very active hurricane season during 2006, it is not forecasting a repeat of last year’s record season at this time. This is partly because the tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are not presently as warm as last year at this time. Also, a combination of conditions led to the record 2005 season. Some of those, particularly an amplified upper-level ridge over the eastern U.S., long periods of suppressed convection near the date line and exceptionally low pressures in the Gulf and Caribbean Sea region, are simply not predictable at this time, according to NOAA.

The report cautions that it is not possible to confidently predict at these extended ranges the number or intensity of land-falling hurricanes, or whether a particular locality will be impacted by a hurricane this season. Therefore, officials advise, residents and government agencies of coastal and near-coastal regions should always maintain hurricane preparedness efforts regardless of the overall seasonal outlook.

It points out that far more damage can be done by one major hurricane hitting a heavily populated area than by several hurricanes hitting sparsely populated areas. Therefore, hurricane-spawned disasters can occur even in years with near-normal or below-normal levels of activity.

Examples of years with near-normal activity that featured extensive hurricane damage and numerous fatalities include 1960 (Hurricane Donna), 1979 (Hurricanes David and Frederic), and 1985 (Hurricanes Elena, Gloria and Juan). Moreover, the nation’s second most damaging hurricane, Andrew in 1992, occurred during a season with otherwise below normal activity.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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