The first long-term forecast for the 2013 hurricane season predicts a busier-than-average slate of storms for the Atlantic Ocean.
According to the forecast, released last week by researchers with the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University, the Atlantic basin should brace for 18 named storms during the five-month season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. Nine of those are projected to strengthen into hurricanes, four of them Category 3 or higher.
If accurate, that prediction would place this year’s storm activity above the average season, which sees 12 tropical storms and six hurricanes, three of them major, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
It would also be remarkably similar to the 2012 storm season, which saw 19 named storms, nine of them hurricanes, and ranked as the third-busiest season in history. Prior to the start of that five-month period, long-term forecasts had predicted “near-normal” activity in the Atlantic, expecting between nine and 15 named storms and four to eight hurricanes, according to NOAA.
But even a slow season can wreak havoc on coastal communities, said Mark Bacon, a meteorologist with the National Weather Service in Wilmington.
“We had a quiet year in 1992. There were only seven storms and four hurricanes, and only one was major,” Bacon said. “But that one, the first one, was Hurricane Andrew.”
Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 storm, formed in the Atlantic and tore over the Bahamas and the southern tip of Florida before crossing into the Gulf of Mexico and making landfall in Louisiana. The storm caused 26 direct fatalities and $26.5 billion worth of damage, ranking as the fifth-costliest tropical cyclone in U.S. history.
“So the people in Homestead, Fla.,” Bacon said, “did not care that it was a quiet year.”
ColoradoStateresearchers will update their initial forecast twice, once in June and a second time in August. Other long-term predictions, including a forecast from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, will be released closer to the start of the season.
But for officials, preparations will continue as normal.
“Your astrologer or your stockbroker, they’re trying to predict something in the future, and you can’t do it with certainty. Weather’s the same way, but arguably with more chaotic systems,” Bacon said. “It’s better than it used to be, but it’s not an exact science, so it’s best to always get your planning and preparation going.”