Sea change for Atlantic hurricanes?

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Three hurricane outlooks released this week have remarkably similar looks.


AccuWeather Inc., WeatherBell Analytics, and Colorado State University, all called for a below-average tropical-storm season this year in the Atlantic Basin.

All three are predicting from 4 to 6 hurricanes – tropical storms with peak winds of at least 74 mph. The long-term average is 7. They also see slightly fewer than the average of 12 named storms, those with peak winds of at least 39 mph.


The similarities in the forecasts perhaps aren’t all that surprising, given that all are built on statistical methods pioneered by the late William M. Gray at Colorado State University.





But comments by Phil Klotzbach, Gray’s prodigy at Colorado State, got our attention.

He believes that the basin, which includes the Gulf and Caribbean, might be entering a general “lull” phased.

In the period of record, active hurricane periods have alternated with quieter ones in 25- to 40-year cycles, based on government records.

The traffic was slow from 1970 to 1994, but an active period took hold in 1995, according to the government’s Hurricane Research Division, which attributes the cycles to large-scale changes in the North Atlantic.




Like drought and other longer-term phenomena, it’s hard to know when exactly a phase change is under way.

“Unfortunately, I think that it takes a few years to really confirm whether you have moved out of the active era,” says Klotzbach.

Recent Septembers have been uneventful, he points out. “September is climatologically the peak month of the Atlantic hurricane season.   Having four straight very quiet Septembers is quite telling.”

He also says that a “relatively cold” and a cool-down of tropical waters might be further indication of a phase change.




That certainly would be welcome news along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts. Keep in mind, however, that the devastation of Hurricane Andrew occurred in 1992 – a “lull” year.




















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