How Forecasters Predict Activity for a Hurricane Season

Every year forecasters begin early to give their predictions for the upcoming hurricane season. And while predicting hurricanes is not an exact science by any means, they can predict probabilities based on certain factors.

Hurricanes, like all other storms, are precipitated by a series of events. Certain conditions in the atmosphere must be met before a hurricane forms. And certain conditions in the ocean, since they form over water, especially warm water.

Low pressure areas are common over oceans, probably, according to some scientists, because of troughs. These low pressure areas become tropical depressions, which, like storms on the land, accumulate warmth and moisture. They become tropical storms, and form a spiral around the low pressure area in the center, and when the winds become excessive in the storm, they become a hurricane.

Meteorologists can often predict that there will be a series of hurricanes, based on the temperature of the water and the prevailing winds. Just as land storms in any particular year tend to take the same path, storm after storm, so do some hurricanes. We saw this pattern happen in Florida within the last few years.

For the 2010 season, forecasters are predicting that there will be around 16 named storms, with 3-5 of them being severe. Most of this is based on El Nino. El Nino is a climate pattern that occurs every 3-7 years in the tropical Pacific Ocean. It is often associated with floods, droughts, and other weather disturbances.

Currently, meteorologists are studying the connection between El Nino and fewer hurricanes in the Atlantic. During El Nino years, there are considerably fewer hurricanes, and since El Nino occurred last year, forecasters are expecting this to be a more active year for storms.

Since this will not be an El Nino year, forecasters are predicting that there is a 64% chance that at least one hurricane will be severe, and a 40% chance that one major hurricane will hit the East Coast.

Hurricane predictions are “iffy” at best, and even with all the recorded data on hand, they are difficult to predict. It is even more difficult to predict where they will make landfall once they form. Thankfully with hurricanes, the public can become aware of the possibility of an impending storm early on with the detection of a tropical storm, and even after the hurricane forms, there are usually several days to prepare for landfall.