EXTENDED RANGE FORECAST OF ATLANTIC SEASONAL HURRICANE ACTIVITY AND U.S. LANDFALL STRIKE PROBABILITY FOR 2007

 

We continue to call for a very active Atlantic basin hurricane season in 2007.  Landfall probabilities for the United States coastline are well above their long-period averages.

 

(as of 31 May 2007)

 

 

 

By Philip J. Klotzbach[1] and William M. Gray[2]

 

with special assistance from William Thorson[3]

 

 

 

This forecast as well as past forecasts and verifications are available via the World Wide Web at http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/Forecasts


Emily Wilmsen, Colorado State University Media Representative, (970-491-6432) is available to answer various questions about this forecast

 

 

 

Department of Atmospheric Science

Colorado State University

Fort Collins, CO 80523

Email: amie@atmos.colostate.edu

 

 

 

 


ATLANTIC BASIN SEASONAL HURRICANE FORECAST FOR 2007

 

Forecast Parameter and 1950-2000

Climatology (in parentheses)

Issue Date

8 December 2006

Issue Date

3 April 2007

Issue Date

31 May 2007

Named Storms (NS) (9.6)

14

17

17

Named Storm Days (NSD) (49.1)

70

85

85

Hurricanes (H) (5.9)

7

9

9

Hurricane Days (HD) (24.5)

35

40

40

Intense Hurricanes (IH) (2.3)

3

5

5

Intense Hurricane Days (IHD) (5.0)

8

11

11

Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) (96.2)

130

170

170

Net Tropical Cyclone Activity (NTC) (100%)

140

185

185

 

 

 

 



PROBABILITIES FOR AT LEAST ONE MAJOR (CATEGORY 3-4-5) HURRICANE LANDFALL ON EACH OF THE FOLLOWING COASTAL AREAS:

 

1)      Entire U.S. coastline - 74% (average for last century is 52%)

 

2)      U.S. East Coast Including Peninsula Florida - 50% (average for last century is 31%)

 

3)      Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville - 49% (average for last century is 30%)

 

4)      Above-average major hurricane landfall risk in the Caribbean




ABSTRACT

 

Information obtained through May 2007 continues to indicate that the 2007 Atlantic hurricane season will be much more active than the average 1950-2000 season.  We estimate that 2007 will have about 9 hurricanes (average is 5.9), 17 named storms (average is 9.6), 85 named storm days (average is 49.1), 40 hurricane days (average is 24.5), 5 intense (Category 3-4-5) hurricanes (average is 2.3) and 11 intense hurricane days (average is 5.0).  The probability of U.S. major hurricane landfall is estimated to be about 140 percent of the long-period average.  We expect Atlantic basin Net Tropical Cyclone (NTC) activity in 2007 to be about 185 percent of the long-term average. 

This late May forecast is based on a newly devised extended range statistical forecast procedure which utilizes 40 years of past global reanalysis data and is then tested on an additional 15 years of global reanalysis data. Analog predictors are also utilized. We have maintained our forecast from our early April prediction due largely to the continued trend towards cooler equatorial Pacific sea surface temperatures.  Currently, neutral ENSO conditions are observed.  We expect either cool neutral or weak-to-moderate La Niña conditions to be present during the upcoming hurricane season.  Tropical and North Atlantic sea surface temperatures remain well above their long-period averages.

 



Acknowledgment


We are grateful to the National Science Foundation (NSF) and Lexington Insurance Company (a member of the American International Group (AIG)) for providing partial support for the research necessary to make these forecasts.  We also thank the GeoGraphics Laboratory at Bridgewater State College (MA) for their assistance in developing the United States Landfalling Hurricane Probability Webpage (available online at http://www.e-transit.org/hurricane).  We thank Jim Kossin and Dan Vimont of the University of Wisconsin-Madison for providing the data for the Atlantic Meridional Mode prediction used in this forecast.  We also thank Amato Evan of the University of Wisconsin-Madison for providing us with the African dust data.

 

The second author gratefully acknowledges valuable input to his CSU research project over many years by former project members and now colleagues Chris Landsea, John Knaff and Eric Blake.  We also thank Professors Paul Mielke and Ken Berry of Colorado State University for much statistical analysis and advice over many years.




Notice of Author Changes

 

By William Gray


The order of the authorship of these forecasts was reversed in 2006 from Gray and Klotzbach to Klotzbach and Gray.  After 22 years (since 1984) of making these forecasts, it is appropriate that I step back and have Phil Klotzbach assume the primary responsibility for our project’s seasonal, monthly and landfall probability forecasts.  Phil has been a member of my research project for the last seven years and has been second author on these forecasts for the last six years.  I have greatly profited and enjoyed our close personal and working relationships. 

Phil is now devoting more time to the improvement of these forecasts than I am.  I am now giving more of my efforts to the global warming issue and in synthesizing my projects’ many years of hurricane and typhoon studies.

 Phil Klotzbach is an outstanding young scientist with a superb academic record.  I have been amazed at how far he has come in his knowledge of hurricane prediction since joining my project in 2000.  I foresee an outstanding future for him in the hurricane field.  I expect he will make many new forecast innovations and skill improvements in the coming years. 



 

Additional Note

 

Subtropical storm Andrea formed off the southeast coast of the United States on May 9.  Since Andrea was never classified as a tropical storm by the National Hurricane Center, it will not be counted as a named storm in our seasonal statistics. 




DEFINITIONS

 




1        Introduction

 

This is the 24th year in which the CSU Tropical Meteorology Project has made forecasts of the upcoming season’s Atlantic basin hurricane activity.  Our research team has shown that a sizable portion of the year-to-year variability of Atlantic tropical cyclone (TC) activity can be hindcast with skill exceeding climatology.  These forecasts are based on statistical methodologies derived from 55 years of past data and a separate study of analog years which have similar precursor circulation features to the current season.  Qualitative adjustments are added to accommodate additional processes which may not be explicitly represented by our statistical analyses.  These evolving forecast techniques are based on a variety of climate-related global and regional predictors previously shown to be related to the forthcoming seasonal Atlantic basin tropical cyclone activity and landfall probability.  We believe that seasonal forecasts must be based on methods that show significant hindcast skill in application to long periods of prior data.  It is only through hindcast skill that one can demonstrate that seasonal forecast skill is possible.  This is a valid methodology provided that the atmosphere continues to behave in the future as it has in the past. 

 

A variety of atmosphere-ocean conditions interact with each other to cause year-to-year and month-to-month hurricane variability.  The interactive physical linkages between these many physical parameters and hurricane variability are complicated and cannot be well elucidated to the satisfaction of the typical forecaster making short range (1-5 days) predictions where changes in the momentum fields are the crucial factors.  Seasonal and monthly forecasts, unfortunately, must deal with the much more complicated interaction of the energy-moisture fields with the momentum fields. 

 

We find that there is a rather high (50-60 percent) degree of year-to-year hurricane forecast potential if one combines 3-4 semi-independent atmospheric-oceanic parameters together.  The best predictors (out of a group of 3-4) do not necessarily have the best individual correlations with hurricane activity.  The best forecast parameters are those that explain the portion of the variance of seasonal hurricane activity that is not associated with the other variables.  It is possible for an important hurricane forecast parameter to show little direct relationship to a predictand by itself but to have an important influence when included with a set of 2-3 other predictors. 

 

In a four-predictor empirical forecast model, the contribution of each predictor to the net forecast skill can only be determined by the separate elimination of each parameter from the full four predictor model while noting the hindcast skill degradation.  When taken from the full set of predictors, one parameter may degrade the forecast skill by 25-30 percent, while another degrades the forecast skill by only 10-15 percent.  An individual parameter that, through elimination from the forecast, degrades a forecast by as much as 25-30 percent may, in fact, by itself, show much less direct correlation with the predictand.  A direct correlation of a forecast parameter may not be the best measure of the importance of this predictor to the skill of a 3-4 parameter forecast model.  This is the nature of the seasonal or climate forecast problem where one is dealing with a very complicated atmospheric-oceanic system that is highly non-linear.  There is a maze of changing physical linkages between the many variables.  These linkages can undergo unknown changes from weekly to decadal time scales.  It is impossible to understand how all these processes interact with each other.  It follows that any seasonal or climate forecast scheme showing significant hindcast skill must be empirically derived.  No one can completely understand the full complexity of the atmosphere-ocean system or develop a reliable scheme for forecasting the myriad non-linear interactions in the full-ocean-atmosphere system.

 

 

2        Early June Forecast Methodology

 

As was done with our early December and early April forecasts, a new statistical scheme has been developed for the June 2007 prediction.  This new scheme utilizes a similar technique to what was utilized for our recent early December and early April 2007 forecasts.  This new scheme utilizes a total of only three predictors.  Two of these predictors are derived from sea surface temperature data obtained from the NCEP/NCAR reanalysis.  The third predictor is the previous year’s early December prediction of the Atlantic Meridional Mode (AMM).  The Atlantic Meridional Mode has been briefly discussed in this season’s early December and early April forecasts. 

 

As was done with the new early December and early April statistical prediction schemes, these three predictors were selected based on dependent data from 1950-1989 and then tested on independent data from 1990-2004.  The combination of these three predictors explained 42 percent of the variance in NTC on dependent data (1950-1989), and using these same equations, 54 percent of the variance in NTC was explained using independent data (1990-2004).  When evaluated over the complete 1950-2004 time period, 49 percent of the variance was explained using these three predictors.

 

The reader will note that the variance explained in the early June statistical scheme is actually slightly less than that achieved in either early December or early April.  However, we feel that utilizing a statistical scheme that only includes data from the two months immediately prior to the forecast date is critical for evaluating the current state of the atmosphere/ocean system. 

 

As with all of the other new forecast schemes that have been outlined in previous forecasts, this new scheme only predicts Net Tropical Cyclone (NTC) activity, and the other predictors are then derived from this NTC prediction.   Table 1 provides the locations of these new predictors, while Figure 1 displays the locations of these predictors on a map.  Table 2 displays values of these predictors for the 2007 hurricane season.  Our statistical forecast calls for a very active hurricane season in 2007. 

 

Table 1:  Predictors used in the new early June forecast.  The sign of the predictor associated with increased tropical cyclone activity during the hurricane season is in parentheses.   

 

Predictor Name

Location

1) April-May SST in the eastern Atlantic (+)

(25º-60ºN, 30º-15ºW)

2) April-May SST in the eastern and central tropical Pacific – Nino 3.4 index (-)

(5°S-5°N, 170°-120°W)

3) July-November Predicted AMM Index (+)

 (21°S-32°N, South American Coastline – West African Coastline)

 

 

Figure 1:  Location of predictors for the current early June forecast scheme. 

 

Table 2: Listing of 31 May 2007 predictors for this year’s hurricane activity.  A plus (+) means that positive values of the parameter indicate increased hurricane activity this year, and a minus (-) means that positive values of the parameter indicate decreased hurricane activity this year.  The combination of these three predictors calls for an active hurricane season this year.

 

Predictor

Values for 2007 Forecast

1) April-May SST (25-60°N, 30-15°W) (+)

+0.5 SD

2) April-May SST (5°S-5°N, 170-120°W) (-)

-0.3 SD

3) July-November Predicted AMM Index (21°S-32°N, South American Coastline – West African Coastline) (+)

+1.9 SD


2.1              Physical Associations among Predictors Listed in Table 1

 

Brief descriptions of our late May predictors follow:

 

Predictor 1:  April-May SST in the eastern Atlantic (+):


(25-60°N, 30-15°W)

 

Above-normal sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the eastern Atlantic during April-May are associated with a weaker-than-normal Azores high and reduced trade wind strength during the boreal spring (Knaff 1997).  As was observed with warm SSTs in the subtropical eastern Atlantic during February and March, above-average SSTs in April-May are strongly correlated with weaker trade winds, lower-than-normal sea level pressures and above-average SSTs in the tropical Atlantic during the following August-October period.  All three of these August-October features are commonly associated with active Atlantic basin hurricane seasons, through reductions in vertical wind shear, increased vertical instability and increased surface latent and sensible heat fluxes, respectively.  In addition, warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the eastern Atlantic are typically associated with a positive phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) and a strong thermohaline circulation (Klotzbach and Gray 2007, manuscript submitted to Geophys. Res. Lett.). 

 

Predictor 2:  April-May SST – Nino 3.4 index (-):


(5°S-5°N, 170-120°W)

 

When sea surface temperatures in the Nino 3.4 region during April-May are below average, it indicates that a La Niña event is likely taking place.  Typically, by the end of May, the springtime ENSO predictability barrier (e.g., Samelson and Tziperman 2001) has passed, and therefore the persistence of either warm or cold anomalies is likely to continue through the upcoming Atlantic basin hurricane season.  As has been discussed extensively in previous forecasts, El Niño conditions during the summer and fall tend to decrease Atlantic hurricane activity by increasing vertical wind shear across the area where Atlantic tropical cyclones develop (e.g., Gray 1984a). 

 

Predictor 3:  July-November AMM Prediction (+):


(21°S-32°N, South American Coastline – West African Coastline)

 

The Atlantic Meridional Mode (AMM) evaluates the strength of the SST gradient between the northern tropical and southern tropical Atlantic, spanning from 21°S-32°N and the South American coastline to the West African coastline.  A positive AMM is in place when the meridional gradient of SST between the northern tropical Atlantic and southern tropical Atlantic is greater than the long-period average.  When the AMM is positive, the Intertropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) shifts northward.  Consequently, convergence is enhanced in the northern tropical Atlantic, while trade wind strength and vertical wind shear in the tropical Atlantic are reduced.  Also associated with a northward-shifted ITCZ are enhanced low-level vorticity and below-normal sea level pressures (Knaff 1997).  When all these conditions occur, more active Atlantic basin tropical cyclone seasons are typically observed (Klotzbach and Gray 2006, Kossin and Vimont 2007, Vimont and Kossin 2007).  This AMM prediction, issued in early December of the previous year, explains approximately 40% of the variance of the observed AMM during the following year’s July-November period. 

 

 

3                   Analog-Based Predictors for 2007 Hurricane Activity

 

Certain years in the historical record have global oceanic and atmospheric trends which are substantially similar to 2007.  These years also provide useful clues as to likely trends in activity that the forthcoming 2007 hurricane season may bring.  For this late May forecast, we project atmospheric and oceanic conditions for August through October 2007 and determine which of the prior years in our database have distinct trends in key environmental conditions which are similar to current April-May 2007 conditions.  Table 3 lists our analog selections.

 

We select prior hurricane seasons since 1949 which have similar atmospheric-oceanic conditions to those currently being experienced.  For 2007, we searched for years that had transitioning warm to cool ENSO conditions and warm North Atlantic sea surface temperatures.

 

There were six hurricane seasons since 1949 with characteristics most similar to what we observe in April-May 2007 and characteristics that we expect to see in August-October 2007.  The best analog years that we could find for the 2007 hurricane season are 1952, 1954, 1964, 1966, 1995 and 2003.  We anticipate that 2007 seasonal hurricane activity will have activity slightly more than what was experienced in the average of these six years.  We continue to expect that the 2007 hurricane season will be very active. 

 

Table 3:  Best analog years for 2007 with the associated hurricane activity listed for each year.

 

Year

NS

NSD

H

HD

IH

IHD

ACE

NTC

1952

7

39.75

6

22.75

3

7.00

87

103

1954

11

51.75

8

31.50

2

9.50

95

127

1964

12

71.25

6

43.00

6

14.75

170

184

1966

11

64.00

7

41.75

3

7.75

145

137

1995

19

121.25

11

61.75

5

11.50

227

222

2003

16

79.25

7

32.75

3

16.75

175

174

Mean

12.7

71.20

7.5

38.90

3.7

11.40

150

158

 

2007 Forecast

17

85

9

40

5

11

170

185

 

4                   ENSO

 

ENSO conditions have continued to trend cooler over the past couple of months.  Currently observed SST anomalies in the various Nino regions range from approximately +0.1°C in the Nino 4 region (5°S-5°N, 160°E-150°W) to approximately -1.5°C in the Nino 1+2 regions (10°S-0°, 80-90°W), indicating that we currently have ENSO-neutral conditions in the tropical Pacific.  However, these current SST anomalies are now on the cool side of neutral, and we expect either cool neutral or La Niña conditions during this year’s hurricane season.  Table 4 shows the April-May SST anomalies compared with the February-March SST anomalies in various Nino regions.  A continued cooling trend is evident in all regions. 

 


Table 4:  April-May SST anomaly compared with February-March SST anomaly in various Nino regions.  

 

Year

February-March Anomaly (°C)

April-May Anomaly (°C)

(Apr-May) – (Feb-Mar)

Nino 1+2

-0.3

-1.2

-0.9

Nino 3

-0.1

-0.4

-0.3

Nino 3.4

0.1

-0.1

-0.2

Nino 4

0.5

0.2

-0.3

 

 

All ENSO forecast models indicate that neutral or cool ENSO conditions are likely for this upcoming summer/fall.  Based on the latest prediction plume figure from the International Research Institute (IRI) (Figure 2), no models are calling for El Niño conditions (SST anomaly greater than 0.5°C) in the Nino 3.4 region (5°S-5°N, 120-170°W) during the August-October period.  The forecast models are basically split between weakly cool and La Niña conditions (SST anomaly less than -0.5°C). 

 

Based on the latest ENSO predictions as well as currently observed conditions in the tropical Pacific, we expect fairly cool ENSO conditions to be in place in the tropical Pacific during the upcoming hurricane season.  Since SSTs in the tropical and northern Atlantic continue to be well above average, we expect a very active hurricane season in 2007. 

 

Figure 2:  ENSO forecasts from various statistical and dynamical models.  Figure courtesy of the International Research Institute (IRI). 

 

 

5                   West Africa Conditions

 

After putting less emphasis on conditions in West Africa over the past few years due to a failure of the African rainfall/Atlantic hurricane relationship, we have decided to take a further look at conditions over West Africa this year.  We believe that a portion of the recent failure of this relationship is due to measurement quality and other errors over this portion of the globe.  With the development of various satellite data products, we can now obtain more accurate and consistent measurements of currently-observed conditions. 

 

There were considerable excursions of dry air/dust over the tropical Atlantic during August of last year, and these conditions may have been partly responsible for the inactive early portion of last season’s hurricane activity.  Amato Evan and colleagues at the University of Wisconsin-Madison/Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies (CIMSS) have developed a dataset of Saharan dust loadings from 1982-present (Evan et al. 2006).  When dust loadings are greater than normal, it results in cooler tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures due to less solar radiation reaching the surface.  In addition, heightened Saharan dust concentrations imply increased stability and higher surface pressures, both of which are unfavorable for tropical cyclogenesis and intensification.  Cooler SSTs associated with enhanced April-May Saharan dust loadings tend to persist for the following few months and appear to cause a damping influence on the season’s hurricane activity. 

 

Over the time period from 1982-2006, April-May Saharan dust loadings correlate at approximately 0.5 with dust loadings during August-September, implying a fairly strong persistence between conditions during both time periods.  April-May dust also correlates at -0.43 with Net Tropical Cyclone (NTC) activity during the upcoming hurricane season, implying that April-May dust is an additional factor that should be considered when issuing seasonal hurricane forecasts.

 

A preliminary estimate of April-May 2007 Saharan dust loadings, provided by Amato Evan and colleagues from CIMSS, calculates that moderate levels of dust have been present over the tropical Atlantic during these two months.  The April-May 2007 dust values indicate to us neither an enhancing nor a detrimental feedback on the upcoming season.  Therefore, current analysis of Saharan dust loadings does not cause us to adjust our forecast either upwards or downwards.  

 

6                   Adjusted 2007 Forecast

 

Table 5 shows our final adjusted 31 May forecast for the 2007 season which is a combination of our new statistical forecast, our analog forecast and qualitative adjustments for other factors not explicitly contained in either of these schemes.  Both our statistical forecast and our analog forecast indicate activity at well above-average levels.  We anticipate that the current cool ENSO conditions will persist through this summer/fall.  Warm sea surface temperatures are likely to continue being present in the tropical and North Atlantic during 2007, due to the fact that we are in a positive phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO) (e.g., a strong phase of the Atlantic thermohaline circulation). 

 

Table 5:  Summary of our 31 May statistical forecast, our analog forecast and our adjusted final forecast for the 2007 hurricane season. 

 

Forecast Parameter and 1950-2000 Climatology (in parentheses)

Statistical

 Scheme

Analog

Scheme

Adjusted Final

Forecast

Named Storms (9.6)

15.7

12.7

17

Named Storm Days (49.1)

80.5

71.2

85

Hurricanes (5.9)

9.7

7.5

9

Hurricane Days (24.5)

40.2

38.9

40

Intense Hurricanes (2.3)

3.7

3.7

5

Intense Hurricane Days (5.0)

8.2

11.4

11

Accumulated Cyclone Energy Index (96.2)

158

150

170

Net Tropical Cyclone Activity (100%)

164

158

185

 

 

 

7                   Landfall Probabilities for 2007

 

A significant focus of our recent research involves efforts to develop forecasts of the probability of hurricane landfall along the U.S. coastline.  Whereas individual hurricane landfall events cannot be accurately forecast months in advance, the total seasonal probability of landfall can be forecast with statistical skill.  With the observation that, statistically, landfall is a function of varying climate conditions, a probability specification has been developed through statistical analyses of all U.S. hurricane and named storm landfall events during the 20th century (1900-1999).  Specific landfall probabilities can be given for all tropical cyclone intensity classes for a set of distinct U.S. coastal regions.

 

 Net landfall probability is shown linked to the overall Atlantic basin Net Tropical Cyclone activity (NTC; see Table 6).  Upon further study, as first mentioned in our early August forecast of 2006, SSTA* does not appear to add additional skill to landfall probabilities beyond that provided by NTC, and therefore, we are now basing our landfall probabilities on predicted NTC only. 

 

In our May 31 prediction that we issued last year, we attempted to make some analysis of steering current patterns to determine which portions of the United States coastline were more likely to be affected by tropical cyclones.  However, we believe that much further analysis is needed to better understand these steering current patterns, and therefore, our probabilities this year will simply be adjusted based upon our latest NTC prediction.

 

As shown in Table 6, NTC is a combined measure of the year-to-year mean of six indices of hurricane activity, each expressed as a percentage difference from the long-term average.  Long-term statistics show that, on average, the more active the overall Atlantic basin hurricane season is, the greater the probability of U.S. hurricane landfall. 

 

Table 6:   NTC activity in any year consists of the seasonal total of the following six parameters expressed in terms of their long-term averages.  A season with 10 NS, 50 NSD, 6 H, 25 HD, 3 IH, and 5 IHD would then be the sum of the following ratios: 10/9.6 = 104, 50/49.1 = 102, 6/5.9 = 102, 25/24.5 = 102, 3/2.3 = 130, 5/5.0 = 100, divided by six, yielding an NTC of 107.

 

1950-2000 Average

1)

Named Storms (NS)

9.6

2)

Named Storm Days (NSD)

49.1

3)

Hurricanes (H)

5.9

4)

Hurricane Days (HD)

24.5

5)

Intense Hurricanes (IH)

2.3

6)

Intense Hurricane Days (IHD)

5.0

 

 

Table 7 lists strike probabilities for the 2007 hurricane season for different TC categories for the entire U.S. coastline, the Gulf Coast and the East Coast including the Florida peninsula.  The mean annual probability of one or more landfalling systems is given in parentheses.  Note that Atlantic basin NTC activity in 2007 is expected to be well above its long-term average of 100, and therefore, United States landfall probabilities are well above average.

 

Please visit our website at http://www.e-transit.org/hurricane for landfall probabilities for 11 U.S. coastal regions, 55 subregions and 205 coastal and near-coastal counties from Brownsville, Texas to Eastport, Maine.

 

Table 7: Estimated probability (expressed in percent) of one or more U.S. landfalling tropical storms (TS), category 1-2 hurricanes (HUR), category 3-4-5 hurricanes, total hurricanes and named storms along the entire U.S. coastline, along the Gulf Coast (region 1-4), and along the Florida Peninsula and the East Coast (Regions 5-11) for 2007.  The long-term mean annual probability of one or more landfalling systems during the 20th century is given in parentheses. 

 

Coastal

Region

 

TS

Category 1-2

HUR

Category 3-4-5

HUR

All

HUR

Named

Storms

Entire U.S. (Regions 1-11)

95% (79%)

88% (68%)

74% (52%)

97% (84%)

99% (97%)

Gulf Coast (Regions 1-4)

80% (59%)

64% (42%)

49% (30%)

81% (60%)

96% (83%)

Florida plus East Coast (Regions 5-11)

73% (50%)

66% (44%)

50% (31%)

83% (61%)

95% (81%)

 

 

We were quite fortunate last year in that we had no hurricane landfalls.  The 2006 season was only the 12th year since 1945 that we have witnessed no hurricane landfalls along the United States coastline.  Since 1945, we have had only two consecutive-year periods when there were no hurricane landfalls.  The two consecutive seasons of 1981-1982 and 2000-2001 had no hurricane landfalls.  The dearth of landfalls in 2000 and 2001 was especially impressive considering that both of these seasons had above-average hurricane activity.  From Hurricane Irene in October 1999 to Hurricane Lili in September 2002, 21 consecutive hurricanes developed in the Atlantic basin without a single U.S. landfall. 

 

7        Is Global Warming Responsible for the Large Upswing in 2004-2005 U.S. Hurricane Landfalls?

 

The U.S. landfall of major hurricanes Dennis, Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005 and the four Florida landfalling hurricanes of 2004 (Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne) raised questions about the possible role that global warming played in these two unusually destructive seasons.

 

The global warming arguments have been given much attention by many media references to recent papers claiming to show such a linkage.   Despite the global warming of the sea surface that has taken place over the last 3 decades, the global numbers of hurricanes and their intensity have not shown increases in recent years except for the Atlantic (Klotzbach 2006), where recent hurricane increases are likely a result of naturally occurring multi-decadal Atlantic Ocean circulation variations.

 

The Atlantic has seen a very large increase in major hurricanes during the 12-year period of 1995-2006 (average 3.9 per year) in comparison to the prior 25-year period of 1970-1994 (average 1.5 per year).  This large increase in Atlantic major hurricanes is primarily a result of the multi-decadal increase in the Atlantic Ocean thermohaline circulation (THC) that is not directly related to global temperature increase or to human-induced greenhouse gas increases.   Changes in ocean salinity are believed to be the driving mechanism.  These multi-decadal changes have also been termed the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). 

 

There have been similar past periods (1940s-1950s) when the Atlantic was just as active as in recent years.  For instance, when we compare Atlantic basin hurricane numbers over the 15-year period (1990-2004) with an earlier 15-year period (1950-1964), we see no difference in hurricane frequency or intensity even though the global surface temperatures were cooler and there was a general global cooling during 1950-1964 as compared with global warming during 1990-2004. 

 

Although global surface temperatures have increased over the last century and over the last 30 years, there is no reliable data available to indicate increased hurricane frequency or intensity in any of the globe’s seven tropical cyclone basins, except for the Atlantic over the past twelve years.  Meteorologists who study tropical cyclones have no valid physical theory as to why hurricane frequency or intensity would necessarily be altered significantly by small amounts (< ±0.5oC) of global mean temperature change. 

 

In a global warming or global cooling world, the atmosphere’s upper air temperatures will warm or cool in unison with the sea surface temperatures.  Vertical lapse-rates will not be significantly altered.  We have no plausible physical reasons for believing that Atlantic hurricane frequency or intensity will change significantly if global ocean temperatures continue to rise.  For instance, in the quarter-century period from 1945-1969 when the globe was undergoing a weak cooling trend, the Atlantic basin experienced 80 major (Cat 3-4-5) hurricanes and 201 major hurricane days.  By contrast, in a similar 25-year period of 1970-1994 when the globe was undergoing a general warming trend, there were only 38 major hurricanes (48% as many) and 63 major hurricane days (31% as many) in the Atlantic basin.  Atlantic sea-surface temperatures and hurricane activity do not necessarily follow global mean temperature trends.

 

The most reliable long-period hurricane records we have are the measurements of US landfalling tropical cyclones since 1900 (Table 8).  Although global mean ocean and Atlantic surface temperatures have increased by about 0.4oC between these two 50-year periods (1900-1949 compared with 1956-2005), the frequency of US landfall numbers actually shows a slight downward trend for the later period.  If we chose to make a similar comparison between US landfall from the earlier 30-year period of 1900-1929 when global mean surface temperatures were estimated to be about 0.5oC colder than they were during the 30-year period from 1976-2005, we find exactly the same US hurricane landfall numbers (54 to 54) and major hurricane landfall numbers (21 to 21).

 

We should not read too much into the two hurricane seasons of 2004-2005.  The activity of these two years was unusual but within natural bounds of hurricane variation.  In addition, following the two very active seasons of 2004 and 2005, 2006 had slightly below-average activity, and no hurricanes made landfall in the United States. 

 

Between 1966 and 2003, US major hurricane landfall numbers were below the long-term average.  Of the 79 major hurricanes which formed in the Atlantic basin from 1966-2003, only 19 (24 percent) of them made US landfall.  During the two seasons of 2004-2005, seven of 13 (54 percent) came ashore.  None of the two major hurricanes that formed in 2006 made US landfall.  This is how nature sometimes works. 

 

What made the 2004-2005 seasons so unusually destructive was not the high frequency of major hurricanes but the high percentage of major hurricanes which were steered over the US coastline.  The major US hurricane landfall events of 2004-2005 were primarily a result of the favorable, upper-air steering currents present during these two years. 

 

Table 8:  U.S. landfalling tropical cyclones by intensity during two 50-year periods.

 

YEARS

Named Storms

Hurricanes

Intense Hurricanes (Cat 3-4-5)

Global Temperature Increase

1900-1949 (50 years)

189

101

39

 

1956-2005 (50 years)

165

83

34

+0.4oC

 

 

Although 2005 had a record number of tropical cyclones (27 named storms, 15 hurricanes and 7 major hurricanes), this should not be taken as an indication of something beyond natural processes.  There have been several other years with comparable hurricane activity to 2005.  For instance, 1933 had 21 named storms in a year when there was no satellite or aircraft data.  Records of 1933 show all 21 named storm had tracks west of 60oW where surface observations were more plentiful.  If we eliminate all the named storms of 2005 whose tracks were entirely east of 60oW and therefore may have been missed given the technology available in 1933, we reduce the 2005 named storms by seven (to 20) – about the same number as was observed to occur in 1933.

 

Utilizing the National Hurricanes Center’s best track database of hurricane records back to 1875, six previous seasons had more hurricane days than the 2005 season.  These years were 1878, 1893, 1926, 1933, 1950 and 1995.  Also five prior seasons (1893, 1926, 1950, 1961 and 2004) had more major hurricane days.  Finally, five previous seasons (1893, 1926, 1950, 1961 and 2004) had greater Hurricane Destruction Potential (HDP) values than 2005.  HDP is the sum of the squares of all hurricane-force maximum winds and provides a cumulative measure of the net wind force generated by a season’s hurricanes.  Although the 2005 hurricane season was certainly one of the most active on record, it is not as much of an outlier as many have indicated.

 

Despite a fairly inactive 2006 hurricane season, we believe that the Atlantic basin is currently in an active hurricane cycle associated with a strong thermohaline circulation and an active phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO).  This active cycle is expected to continue for another decade or two at which time we should enter a quieter Atlantic major hurricane period like we experienced during the quarter century periods of 1970-1994 and 1901-1925.  Atlantic hurricanes go through multi-decadal cycles.  Cycles in Atlantic major hurricanes have been observationally traced back to the mid-19th century, and changes in the AMO have been inferred from Greenland paleo ice-core temperature measurements going back thousands of years.

 

 

8        Forecast Theory and Cautionary Note

 

Our forecasts are based on the premise that those global oceanic and atmospheric conditions which preceded comparatively active or inactive hurricane seasons in the past provide meaningful information about similar trends in future seasons.  It is important that the reader appreciate that these seasonal forecasts are based on statistical schemes which, owing to their intrinsically probabilistic nature, will fail in some years.  Moreover, these forecasts do not specifically predict where within the Atlantic basin these storms will strike.  The probability of landfall for any one location along the coast is very low and reflects the fact that, in any one season, most U.S. coastal areas will not feel the effects of a hurricane no matter how active the individual season is.  However, it must also be emphasized that a low landfall probability does not insure that hurricanes will not come ashore.  Regardless of how active the 2007 hurricane season is, a finite probability always exists that one or more hurricanes may strike along the U.S. coastline or in the Caribbean Basin and do much damage. 

 

 

9        Forthcoming Updated Forecasts of 2007 Hurricane Activity

 

We will be issuing seasonal updates of our 2007 Atlantic basin hurricane forecasts on Friday 3 August, Tuesday 4 September and Tuesday 2 October 2007.  The 3 August, 4 September and 2 October forecasts will include separate forecasts of August-only, September-only and October-only Atlantic basin tropical cyclone activity.  A verification and discussion of all 2007 forecasts will be issued in late November 2007.  Our first seasonal hurricane forecast for the 2008 hurricane season will be issued in early December 2007.  All of these forecasts will be available on the web at: http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/Forecasts.

 

10      Acknowledgments

 

Besides the individuals named on page 3, there have been a number of other meteorologists that have furnished us with data and given many years of valuable assessments of the current state of global atmospheric and oceanic conditions.  These include Arthur Douglas, Richard Larsen, Todd Kimberlain, Ray Zehr, Mark DeMaria, Brian McNoldy and Jonathan Vigh.  In addition, Amie Hedstrom and Barbara Brumit have provided excellent manuscript, graphical and data analysis and assistance over a number of years.  We have profited over the years from many in-depth discussions with most of the current and past NHC hurricane forecasters.  The second author would further like to acknowledge the encouragement he has received for this type of forecasting research application from Neil Frank, Robert Sheets, Robert Burpee, Jerry Jarrell and Max Mayfield, former directors of the National Hurricane Center (NHC), and their forecast staffs.  Uma Shama and Larry Harman of Bridgewater State College, MA have provided assistance and technical support in the development of our Landfalling Hurricane Probability Webpage.  We thank Jim Kossin and Dan Vimont for providing the prediction data for the Atlantic Meridional Mode.  We also thank Amato Evan for providing us with the African dust data.  We thank Bill Bailey of the Insurance Information Institute for his sage advice and encouragement.

 

The financial backing for the issuing and verification of these forecasts has in part been supported by the National Science Foundation and by the Research Foundation of Lexington Insurance Company (a member of the American International Group).  We also thank the GeoGraphics Laboratory at Bridgewater State College for their assistance in developing the Landfalling Hurricane Probability Webpage.

 

 

11      Citations and Additional Reading

 


12      Verification of Previous Forecasts

 

Table 9:  Summary verification of the authors’ six previous years of seasonal forecasts for Atlantic TC activity between 2001-2006.

 

 

 

 

2001

 

7 Dec. 2000

Update

6 April

Update

7 June

Update

7 August

 

Obs.

No. of Hurricanes

5

6

7

7

9

No. of Named Storms

9

10

12

12

15

No. of Hurricane Days

20

25

30

30

26

No. of Named Storm Days

45

50

60

60

64

Hurr. Destruction Potential

65

65

75

75

71

Intense Hurricanes

2

2

3

3

4

Intense Hurricane Days

4

4

5

5

4.25

Net Tropical Cyclone Activity

90

100

120

120

134

 

 

2002

 

7 Dec. 2001

Update

5 April

Update

31 May

Update

7 August

Update

2 Sept.

 

Obs.

No. of Hurricanes

8

7

6

4

3

4

No. of Named Storms

13

12

11

9

8

12

No. of Hurricane Days

35

30

25

12

10

11

No. of Named Storm Days

70

65

55

35

25

54

Hurr. Destruction Potential

90

85

75

35

25

31

Intense Hurricanes

4

3

2

1

1

2

Intense Hurricane Days

7

6

5

2

2

3

Net Tropical Cyclone Activity

140

125

100

60

45

82

 

 

2003

 

6 Dec. 2002

Update

4 April

Update

30 May

Update

6 August

Update

3 Sept.

Update

2 Oct.

 

Obs.

No. of Hurricanes

8

8

8

8

7

8

7

No. of Named Storms

12

12

14

14

14

14

16

No. of Hurricane Days

35

35

35

25

25

35

32

No. of Named Storm Days

65

65

70

60

55

70

79

Intense Hurricanes

3

3

3

3

3

2

3

Intense Hurricane Days

8

8

8

5

9

15

16.75

Net Tropical Cyclone Activity

140

140

145

120

130

155

174

 

 

2004

 

5 Dec. 2003

Update

2 April

Update

28 May

Update

6 August

Update

3 Sept.

Update

1 Oct.

 

Obs.

No. of Hurricanes

7

8

8

7

8

9

9

No. of Named Storms

13

14

14

13

16

15

14

No. of Hurricane Days

30

35

35

30

40

52

46

No. of Named Storm Days

55

60

60

55

70

96

90

Intense Hurricanes

3

3

3

3

5

6

6

Intense Hurricane Days

6

8

8

6

15

23

22.25

Net Tropical Cyclone Activity

125

145

145

125

185

240

229

 

 

2005

 

3 Dec. 2004

Update

1 April

Update

31 May

Update

5 August

Update

2 Sept.

Update

3 Oct.

 

Obs.

No. of Hurricanes

6

7

8

10

10

11

15

No. of Named Storms

11

13

15

20

20

20

27

No. of Hurricane Days

25

35

45

55

45

40

50

No. of Named Storm Days

55

65

75

95

95

100

129

Intense Hurricanes

3

3

4

6

6

6

7

Intense Hurricane Days

6

7

11

18

15

13

17.75

Net Tropical Cyclone Activity

115

135

170

235

220

215

277

 

 

2006

 

6 Dec. 2005

Update

4 April

Update

31 May

Update

3 August

Update

1 Sept.

Update

3 Oct.

 

Obs.

No. of Hurricanes

9

9

9

7

5

6

5

No. of Named Storms

17

17

17

15

13

11

10

No. of Hurricane Days

45

45

45

35

13

23

21

No. of Named Storm Days

85

85

85

75

50

58

53

Intense Hurricanes

5

5

5

3

2

2

2

Intense Hurricane Days

13

13

13

8

4

3

2

Net Tropical Cyclone Activity

195

195

195

140

90

95

85

 



[1] Research Associate

[2] Professor Emeritus of Atmospheric Science

[3] Research Associate