2016 Hurricane Season – Average season expected

  • Published
  • By William P. Roeder
  • 45th Weather Squadron Meteorologist

The 2016 hurricane season is expected to have near average activity. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center predicted on May 27, 2016, that the Atlantic hurricane season will have 10-to-16 tropical storms, four-to-eight hurricanes, and one-to-four major hurricane of Category-3 strength, which is 111 mph, or higher.

The totals include the tropical cyclones that already occurred in 2016: Hurricane Alex in January and Tropical Storm Bonnie in May. An average season has 12 tropical storms, six hurricanes, and two major hurricanes.

 The Climate Prediction Center is predicting the overall season to be 65-to-140 percent of average, according to the Accumulated Cyclone Energy index, which incorporates both intensity and duration of the tropical cyclones. The Climate Prediction Center will update its outlook Aug. 4, 2016. This forecast is consistent with the prediction from Colorado State University issued April 14, 2016, and updated June 1, 2016, July 1, 2016, and Aug. 3, 2016. However, because of conflicting and uncertain signals, this outlook is even more inexact than usual. More information about the Climate Prediction Center outlook can be found at www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/outlooks/hurricane.shtml.

There are two primary reasons for this year’s forecast for an average hurricane season. First, the current El Niño is weakening and expected to become neutral or a La Niña pattern during the peak of the hurricane season, which is August to September. A La Niña is colder than average water temperature in the equatorial Pacific Ocean. This usually decreases wind shear over the tropical Atlantic Ocean, increasing tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Ocean.

The timing of the La Niña makes this seasonal outlook more uncertain than normal. If La Niña forms a little faster or stronger than expected, the hurricane season might be more active than predicted. Or if the La Niña forms a little later or weaker than expected then hurricane season might be less active than predicted.

Second, the water temperature in the tropical Atlantic Ocean is warmer than normal. This is conducive to more hurricane activity. However, the northern Atlantic Ocean is colder than normal, which tends to inhibit tropical cyclones.

These two effects should balance each other contributing to an average hurricane season. This pattern of water temperatures is part of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO). This is a 50- to-90-year cycle of 25- to-45-years of warmer water temperature in the Atlantic and increased hurricane activity followed by 25- to-45-years of colder water temperatures and decreased hurricane activity in the Atlantic. A period of increased activity began in 1995, but it is unclear if the AMO is switching back to a period of decreased hurricane activity.

The Climate Prediction Center forecast does not consider landfall. The season could be average, as predicted, but if one of the few hurricanes hits the Space Coast it will still be a bad season for us.

To access the 45th Space Wing’s hurricane briefings, hurricane survival guide, descriptions of hurricane conditions, and more, go to http://www.patrick.af.mil/Units/Hurricane-Information. For additional information about hurricane preparedness or hurricane preparedness training, contact William Roeder of the 45th Weather Squadron at (321) 853‑8410.