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Forecasts for reduced 2014 hurricane activity continue, but risk remains


More forecasts have been released for the 2014 Atlantic tropical storm and hurricane season in the last week, with a continued call for below average tropical activity levels but warnings that there is still the potential for significant impact and losses.

Weather Services International (WSI) delivered a forecast for 11 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes in the Atlantic tropical season in 2014, a forecast which is lower than the 1950-2013 normals of 12/7/3 and the more recent “active period” (1995-2013) normals of 15/8/4.

WSI Chief Meteorologist Dr. Todd Crawford, explained; “There has been no significant change in the output from our forecast guidance for the upcoming tropical season. Tropical Atlantic surface temperatures remain rather cool relative to the average of the last 20 years, and an emerging El Nino event also tilts the odds towards reduced activity this season. The various dynamical and statistical models that we use remain in unusual agreement, predicting between 9-11 named storms, between 4-6 hurricanes, and between 0-2 major hurricanes this year. There is no compelling reason to change our forecast at this time.”

Accuweather also came out with its latest tropical Atlantic forecast update this week, predicting 10 named tropical storms, 5 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes, during the 2014 Atlantic season. Accuweather also gives a landfall prediction, saying that it believes that 2 storms, either tropical storms or hurricanes, will make landfall on the U.S. coast this season.

El Niño, the phenomenon associated with above-normal water temperatures in the equatorial Pacific, is of course a factor with the chances of such conditions developing increasingly rising this year. El Niño counditions would be likely to increase wind shear across portions of the Atlantic basin and as a result could suppress the development of tropical storms this season.

“If we have a robust El Niño develop, then the numbers will be much lower and this could be one of the least active years in recent memory,” explained Senior Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski.

Kottlowski also said that one or two storms could be seen in June and July this year, conditions are looking conducive for earlier development than normal, but he stressed that the bulk of tropical activity would as normal be in the middle of the season.

Accuweather says that areas to watch closely for potential landfalling storms will be those from eastern Louisiana, east through Florida and up through the Carolina and Virginia coasts, including the cities of New Orleans, Tampa, Miami, Key West, Charleston and Norfolk.

Accuweather also notes that the expected El Niño and low forecast numbers should not lead people to be complacent. “All we need is one hurricane,” Kottlowski said, “Just because we are saying this is going to be an inactive season doesn’t mean we couldn’t have a couple of very intense hurricanes.”

Finally, WeatherBELL Analytics said it sticks with its April forecast for 8-10 named storms, 3-5 hurricanes and 1-2 major hurricanes, along with a seasonal ACE (Accumulated Cyclonic Energy) index 75% – 90% of normal. However, as usual WeatherBELL provide some insight into where risks may be higher.

WeatherBELL says:

The deep tropics (south of 22.5°N) will have less to much-less than normal activity this year. Farther north, the very warm water off of the Eastern Seaboard is a concern, along with the oncoming El Niño conditions. There have been plenty of El Niño years with high impact seasons for the U.S. coast: 1957, 1965, 1969, 1976, 1983 (fading but still there), 1991, 1992, 2002, and 2004 are examples. The pattern favors stronger storms (relative to normals) in-close to the U.S. rather than in the deep tropics.

WeatherBELL says that forecast models call for higher than average tropical activity near to the east coast of the U.S., a modelled outlook that would concern reinsurers and the catastrophe bond market.

WeatherBELL explains:

What is different is that the ECMWF model has a forecast for higher than average activity near the East Coast of the U.S.! We have been in awe at the lack of activity near the East Coast over the last 20 years, given the similar cycle to the 1950s. While Irene and Sandy have drawn significant attention, they were nothing compared to the meteorological mayhem of the 1950s or the intensity of 1938 and 1944. There is nothing to prohibit another Sandy-type hit from the southeast or three storms up the East Coast in one year despite a relatively low number of named storms in a season. The benchmark year on the eastern seaboard, 1954, had well below normal tropical activity in the deep tropics, with only Hazel being a strong storm south of 20°N, so there is strong historical support for the ECMWF’s idea.

So while factors are converging towards lower than normal tropical cyclone or hurricane activity in the deep tropics, WeatherBELL says that this is a challenging year to forecast and there is a greater threat of higher intensity storms closer to the U.S. coastline. Like in 2012, WeatherBELL suggests that we may see the first hurricane advisories coming replete with coastal warnings, as storms may form much nearer to land.

Hurricane season begins on the 1st June and runs to the 30th November. The forecast from the U.S. NOAA has also been released today and is aligned with the other forecasters we track. The NOAA forecasts a 70% probability of 8 to 13 named storms, 3 to 6 major hurricanes and 1 to 2 major hurricanes occurring during the season.

The NOAA explains the following uncertainties associated with its forecast:

One uncertainty in this 2014 outlook lies in exactly when El Niño will develop and how strong it will become. Another uncertainty lies in how much the oceanic and atmospheric conditions across the MDR will begin to take on characteristics of the current high activity era for Atlantic hurricanes, as they have in most seasons since 1995. Cooler Atlantic SSTs and a stronger El Niño could produce activity levels near the lower end of the predicted ranges, while warmer Atlantic SSTs and a weaker El Niño could result in activity toward the higher end of the predicted ranges.

Our 2014 Atlantic tropical storm and hurricane season page includes details from eight forecasters. The average of those forecasts now calls for 10.6 named tropical storms, 4.6 hurricanes and 1.6 major hurricanes (category 3 or greater).

Those numbers remain below the long-term average, however it is well worth being aware of factors that could influence more northerly storms forming, or storms forming nearer to the coast, as this, for the insurance, reinsurance and catastrophe bond market could result in significant industry losses despite the below average forecasts.

Keep track of the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, compare forecasts and monitor the progress of storms here on Artemis. Visit and bookmark our 2014 Atlantic hurricane season page.

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