Posted by: Phil Klotzbach, Ph.D., Research Scientist, Colorado State University, Department of Atmospheric Science
Editor's Note: The views expressed by Phil Klotzbach do not necessarily represent the official views of the United States, the Department of Homeland Security, or the Federal Emergency Management Agency. FEMA does not endorse any non-government organizations, entities, or services.
The Tropical Meteorology Project in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University along with many other forecasting groups (e.g., NOAA, the UK Met Office, Tropical Storm Risk) are calling for a near-average hurricane season this year. While a somewhat less active hurricane season than the past couple of years is expected, this does not mean that coastal residents should prepare any differently. The recent landfall of Tropical Storm Beryl is a reminder that tropical cyclones can make landfall when a quieter season is predicted, even prior to the official start of the hurricane season.
It only takes one system to make it an active season for you. Devastating tropical cyclones have impacted the United States in very quiet years. For example, in 1992, CSU correctly predicted that only one major hurricane would occur. This major hurricane happened to be Hurricane Andrew, which devastated south Florida. The 1983 Atlantic hurricane season is another good example. That year only had four named tropical cyclones all season, but one of them was Hurricane Alicia which pounded the northern part of Texas. So despite this year’s less active forecast, take time now to get prepared if you live in an area susceptible to the effects of severe tropical weather.
A little history…
CSU has been issuing Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecasts annually since 1984. Many individuals have wondered why a university located thousands of miles away from the Atlantic Ocean would issue seasonal hurricane forecasts. Dr. Herbert Riehl, a renowned hurricane researcher from the University of Chicago, came to Colorado to start CSU's Atmospheric Science department in the early 1960s. One of his Ph.D. students at the time was Bill Gray, who came to CSU a couple of years later. Dr. Gray began issuing forecasts when he discovered the relationship between El Niño and Atlantic basin hurricane activity. When El Niño occurs in the tropical Pacific, it increases the frequency during the hurricane season of strong vertical wind shear in the Atlantic, a condition that is detrimental for tropical cyclone formation and strengthening. Since the early 1980s, many other predictors of severe tropical weather have been discovered by CSU and other forecasting groups that impact Atlantic basin hurricane activity. As technology continues to improve, these forecasts will continue to play an important role in educating the public.
Caption: Pictured from left to right, William Gray and Phil Klotzbach of the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project.