Forecasters at Colorado State University are projecting a “slightly below average” hurricane season in the North Atlantic due, in part, to cooling ocean temperatures.
The university’s Tropical Meteorology Project forecast released April 6 calls for 11 named storms this year and four hurricanes. Two hurricanes are expected to become major, meaning they will reach Category 3 strength or higher with winds exceeding 110 mph. Median hurricane activity between 1981 and 2010 was 6.5 hurricanes and 12 named storms per year with two major storms.
Colorado State researchers Philip J. Klotzbach and Michael M. Bell compiled the report using 29 years of previous climate data and observations. This is the 34th year the university has released a hurricane forecast.
“The tropical Atlantic has cooled over the past month, and the far North Atlantic is currently colder than normal,” the researchers wrote in the forecast. “These cold anomalies tend to force atmospheric conditions that are less conducive for Atlantic hurricane formation and intensification.”
The probability that a Category 3 or higher storm will make landfall somewhere in the U.S. is 42 percent, while the likelihood of a storm hitting the Florida peninsula or the Gulf Coast are both 24 percent, the report said. The forecast predicts a 34 percent chance a major storm will track into the Caribbean Sea.
The CSU report for 2016 projected 12 named storms, five hurricanes and two major storms in the Atlantic. Ultimately, there were 15 named storms and seven hurricanes, four of which reached or exceeded Category 3 strength.
The researchers acknowledge the forecasts are not perfect but also note the likelihood of a hurricane making landfall in any single coastal location remains very low. The forecast also notes that it takes only one storm to make a hurricane season “active” for coastal residents.