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Below average Atlantic hurricane season predicted
Published on April 8, 2017 Email To Friend    Print Version

Photo: Colorado State University

By Viona Alexander-Smith

ROAD TOWN, BVI -- A below average 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season has been predicted by forecasters from the Colorado State University (CSU) and AccuWeather.

In their forecast, released on Thursday, hurricane researchers at the CSU predicted a slightly below-average season, while AccuWeather’s April 5 forecast stated that this season will be below normal.

The forecasters from both institutions have pointed to the development of El Niño as a contributing factor for the below average predictions.

The CSU hurricane researchers stated in their report, “A weak La Niña this past winter has dissipated, and there is the potential that a weak to moderate El Niño could develop by the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. El Niño tends to increase upper-level westerly winds across the Caribbean into the tropical Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes as they try to form.”

AccuWeather’s researchers also stated that the 2017 hurricane season will be below-normal because of a potential El Nino that may limit development of storms.

Another primary factor for the slightly below-average prediction by the CSU is the anomalous (abnormal) cooling in the tropical Atlantic.

“Most of the North Atlantic has anomalously cooled over the past month, and the tropical Atlantic is now slightly cooler than normal,” the CSU researches stated. They added, “In addition to providing less fuel for tropical cyclone formation and intensification, cooler tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are associated with a more stable atmosphere as well as drier air, both of which suppress organised thunderstorm activity necessary for hurricane development.”

However, the predictions from the two institutions differ in terms of the number of storms expected this season.

The CSU report calls for the development of 11 named storms with four expected to become hurricanes and two to reach major hurricane strength (Category 3-4-5) with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater.

AccuWeather on the other hand has predicted ten named storms, including five hurricanes and three major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.

Although a below average season is predicted, the director of the British Virgin Islands Department of Disaster Management (DDM), Sharleen DaBreo, insisted that residents and visitors should focus on fine tuning their preparations.

DaBreo said, “Our preparedness message remains the same regardless of the intensity of the season and the number of storms expected. Preparedness is paramount because it only takes one storm or hurricane to make landfall and cause significant damage. Let us not forget the damage and devastation caused by one hurricane (Hurricane Matthew) across several Caribbean islands last year.”

The DDM director explained, “We are not saying preparedness will eliminate damages and losses during hurricanes; what we are saying is that it will minimise the extent. This is why we are encouraging persons to be prepared by familiarizing themselves with their business continuity and family emergency plans, knowing where the emergency shelters are located and if you do not have a plan, now is the time to develop one.”

Additional forecasts are expected before the Atlantic Hurricane Season begins on June 1. The CSU team will issue forecast updates on June 1, July 3 and August 2 and the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) forecast is expected in May.

A normal hurricane season is characterised by 12 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. June 1 to November 30 is the official period for the Atlantic Hurricane Season; however, it is not uncommon to have storms and hurricanes outside of this time-span.
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