How Forecasters Predict Activity for a Hurricane Season

Between April and May of each year, federal forecasters predict hurricane activity for the upcoming season.  Unlike weather watchers of old, today’s forecasters have historical data, technology and research to help them make accurate weather predictions.  In the case of severe weather, such as hurricanes, forecasters have developed an intricate process to help predict future tropical storm activity. 

What is a Hurricane?

The term hurricane, also synonymous with typhoon, refers to a tropical cyclone which has sustainable winds of 74 miles per hour.  These intense tropical storms are generally characterized by circulating winds and their origins in tropical and sub-tropic areas.

Hurricanes undergo three basic stages of development starting with a collection of thunderstorms over tropical waters.  Humidity, low pressure systems, and even wind shears are also crucial factors in the formation and sustainability of hurricanes.

Throughout history, hurricanes have resulted in loss of life and billions in property damage.   Hurricane preparedness and awareness are keys to successfully surviving these tropical storms. With summer climates already here, many hope that the seas will be calm and weather just warm.

Hurricane Predictions

Hurricane season begins in June and generally lasts until November in the Western Hemispher.  Meterologists make two types of hurricane predictions. Most people are familiar with the more common prediction of tracking. This occurs when storms are formed.  However, each year forecasters actually estimate the number and intensity of storms. 

Each year, several weather organizations, which include the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), begin to speculate about the upcoming storm season.  Meteorologists are among those that also begin to consider the potential for storms. 

The NOAA is part of the National Weather Service, which has been in existence in some form since 1807.  The National Weather Service has a National Climate Prediction Center, which the NOAA is a division of,  which develops forecasts and weather outlooks. As part of the NOAA’s work, their seasonal outlook looks into the probability of storms.  This work is done by meteorologists and other scientists, who monitor global weather conditions.  Through the National Hurricane Center, which is another part of the National Weather Service, hurricane specific information is  track and predict actual tropical storms and hurricanes.  

Based on past seasons and the known weather conditions, meteorologists and specialists predict the possible number of hurricanes for the season.  They include predictions for the intensity of the sustainable winds, wind speeds,  and possibility of how many will make landfall. Factors such as El Nino, oceanic water temperature, and wind sheer are factors these experts consider in their predictions.

For 2010, forecasters think that there will be from 14 to 23 storms in the region consisting of the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and the Carribbean. Of this number, he prediction is that there will be at least 8 hurricanes.

Today’s meteorologists no longer have to guess blindly about weather patterns and conditions.  Modern tools and scientific knowledge have made the process easier.  As with hurricanes, forecasters can use historical data and measure global climate conditions predict the number, intensity and course of these severe tropical storms for a coming hurricane season. With their help, many lives and billions in property are saved. 

For those interested in more information about hurricane predictions, check out the following resources: