Energy & Environment

Research suggests first below-average hurricane season since 2014

After nearly a decade-long onslaught of strong hurricane seasons, Southerners may be finally catching a break this year, as Colorado State University (CSU) researchers project a below-average season for the first time since 2014.

The CSU forecast anticipates 13 named storms this season, compared to the average of 14.4, with six of them becoming hurricanes. 

Stronger-than-expected outcomes are still possible as mixed signals from water temperatures and wind forecasts mean that this year’s projection is more uncertain than most, the researchers said.

“Our analog seasons exhibited a wide range of outcomes, from below-normal seasons to hyperactive seasons,” said Phil Klotzbach, the report’s lead writer. “This highlights the large uncertainty that exists with this outlook.”

And a below-average hurricane season does not necessarily mean below-average risk of storms. 2022’s season was only slightly above average yet saw one of the most destructive hurricanes in American history in Ian, which caused an estimated $113 billion in damage, mostly in Florida.

“We anticipate a near-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean,” the researchers said in a statement. “As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them. They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.”

Using a factor called Accumulated Cyclone Energy, researchers outline their projections for how strong all storms will be in a season. An average year has 73 ACE of storms in the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, while this year’s projection is 55 ACE.

The researchers expect an El Niño this summer and fall, when warmer water comes to the western coast of the Americas in the Pacific Ocean. El Niño conditions impact air temperature and wind patterns and generally inhibit hurricanes. 

However, warm water is still more prevalent than normal in the central Atlantic Ocean, which helps hurricanes develop. That’s why there is extra uncertainty with this year’s forecast, the researchers said.

Recent years have seen strong hurricane development. 2021 was the third most-active hurricane season ever with 21 named storms and four hurricanes. 2020 saw a record 30 named storms.

Tags extreme weather hurricane season Natural disaster Phil Klotzbach weather

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