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‘Average’ Tropical Activity Expected in Atlantic This Year, CSU Says

Despite a fading El Nino and the possibility of La Nina conditions in the Pacific Ocean, the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season isn't likely to produce an unusual number of tropical storms, according to forecasters at Colorado State University (CSU).

"We anticipate that the 2016 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have approximately average activity," the CSU hurricane team said in its latest forecast.

"The current weakening El Nino is likely to transition to either neutral or La Nina conditions by the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. While the tropical Atlantic is relatively warm, the far North Atlantic is quite cold, potentially indicative of a negative phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation. We anticipate a near-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and in the Caribbean."

The CSU forecast calls for a total of 13 named storms this year, six of them hurricanes, including two major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher). There is also a 40% chance of at least one major hurricane tracking into the Caribbean this year, compared to a 42% average over the last century, they said.

The CSU forecast is more restrained than some other recent predictions. AccuWeather forecasters believe the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season could be more active than usual, with a total of 14 named storms, eight of them hurricanes, including four major hurricanes (see Daily GPIApril 6). As many as three of those named storms are expected to make landfall in the United States, the AccuWeather forecasters said.

WeatherBell Analytics’ forecaster Joe Bastardi also expects a slightly above normal Atlantic hurricane season, with 11-14 named storms, six to eight of them hurricanes, and two to five of those major hurricanes.

A typical Atlantic hurricane season produces a dozen named storms.

Many weather forecasters, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), are predicting a 40% chance of a La Nina event developing by fall (see Daily GPIMarch 2).

In January, NOAA's Climate Prediction Center said it expected the El Nino event wouldn't dissipate for several more months (see Daily GPI, Jan. 14). NOAA scientists have said El Nino was the leading climate factor influencing the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season, which produced a below-normal 11 named storms, four of which became hurricanes, two of them major hurricanes.

The first Atlantic hurricane of 2015 didn't form until mid-August (see Daily GPI, Aug. 21, 2015). The hurricane season officially runs from June 1 until Nov. 30.

The probability of a transition from a Pacific El Nino to a La Nina event could also lead to a hotter-than-normal summer, according to MDA Weather Services (see Daily GPIApril 7).

The National Hurricane Center named the first hurricane of 2016 in January. Hurricane Alex, the first hurricane to form in the Atlantic in January since 1938, remained well out at sea and did not threaten the North American mainland.

A combination of fewer tropical storms and a lessening reliance on Gulf of Mexico production (thanks to the growth of production out of inland shale plays) has kept hurricane-related damage to the nation's energy infrastructure and markets to a minimum in recent years.

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