2005 Expected Hurricane Count Revised: It’s Higher
There will be more hurricanes than usual this year, the government predicted Tuesday, raising its forecast for the number of all storms expected in the Atlantic Ocean this season to between 18 and 21.
Seven storms -- two of them major hurricanes -- have developed since the season began June 1. And before the season ends Nov. 30, 11 to 14 more are expected, with between seven and nine of those becoming hurricanes, officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in the agency’s annual August update.
“Much of the season’s activity is still to come,” said Gerry Bell, a meteorologist for NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
NOAA’s initial prediction for the 2005 season, made in May, anticipated 12 to 15 storms. The long-term mean is 10 per year.
“This may well be one of the most active Atlantic hurricane seasons on record and will be the ninth above-record Atlantic hurricane season in the last 11 years,” said David L. Johnson, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service.
Of the predicted hurricanes, three to five of those are expected to be classified as major. The minimum wind speed for a hurricane is 74 mph; a major hurricane has sustained winds of 111 mph or more. Of the storms so far this season, Dennis and Emily were considered major hurricanes.
NOAA researchers said above-normal hurricane seasons were anticipated for several decades because tropical conditions in the Atlantic basin -- which includes the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea -- produced storm activity in 20- to 30-year cycles.
The 1950s and 1960s had active hurricane seasons, NOAA officials said, but from 1970 to 1994, three above-normal seasons were recorded. The cycle shifted in 1995, when 19 storms developed, and the numbers in the last few years have been well above the mean.
“The shift since 1995 to an environment generally conducive to hurricane formation is not likely to change soon,” said Stanley Goldenberg, a meteorologist with NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division.
“This means that during the next 10 to 40 years or so, most of the Atlantic hurricane seasons are likely to have above-average activity, with a continuation of significantly increased numbers of hurricanes.”
The 25-year quiet period coincided with tremendous growth of coastal areas -- and residents must now choose whether to leave their properties or make costly renovations so that their homes would be able to withstand the storms, the officials noted.
“Because this is ongoing, people will need to think, for example, ‘Do I want to live along the coastline?’ ” Bell said.
Kerry A. Emanuel, professor of meteorology at MIT, said lax construction standards during the 1970s and 1980s were affecting residents today.
“People are going to get tired of seeing their houses get smashed over and over again,” he said.
Most of the storms predicted for the rest of this hurricane season are expected to develop along the west coast of Africa and move westward over the tropical Atlantic and the Caribbean. According to NOAA, storms that first form in those areas account for 55% of all hurricanes and 80% of major hurricanes.
Storms that form over the Atlantic generally move westward toward the islands of the Caribbean and the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of Mexico and the United States.
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This year, forecasters are predicting an above-normal hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. Most activity occurs in August and September:
All of 2005: 12-15
All of 2005: 18-21
All of 2005: 9-11
All of 2005:5-7
2005 storms to date
Tropical storms: 7
Major hurricanes: 2 (Dennis and Emily)
Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration