It may seem weird to be talking about hurricanes when so much of the American south and southwest are suffering under drought conditions and horrible heat, but the Atlantic coast is still at risk, especially since the busiest part of the annual Atlantic hurricane season is the period from August to October.
As they do every August, federal storm watchers updated their outlook for the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season last week, increasing the number of expected “named” storms from the initial predictions made back in May.
NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) forecasters are now saying they expect three to five of this year’s storm’s to develop into hurricanes of category 3 or higher, with winds topping 110 miles an hour.
Gerry Bell, Ph.D., the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center elaborated, saying, “The atmosphere and Atlantic Ocean are primed for high hurricane activity during August through October. Storms through October will form more frequently and become more intense than we’ve seen so far this season.”
The climate factors predicted in May to support an active season include exceptionally warm temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean (actually the third warmest temperatures on record), the possible return of La Niña, and the “tropical tropical multi-decadal signal, which since 1995 has brought favorable ocean and atmospheric conditions, leading to more active seasons.” Also at play is a reduced vertical wind shear and lower air pressure across the tropical Atlantic.
Based on all of this information, the confidence for a more-active-than-normal hurricane season has been revised upwards from May’s 65% to a worrisome 85% this month. As well, the number of predicted named storms has increased from 12-18 in May to 14-19 as of last week, with the expected number of hurricanes now at 7-10, up from 6-10.
What does all this mean to the average coastal homeowner? Don’t be lulled into false security by a season that has been quiet so far; check on your wind and flood insurance coverage before it’s too late.