Below-average number of hurricanes expected in 2015

Published 7:00 am Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Does hurricane season make you nervous? Do you get an uneasy feeling when the “Breaking News” headline crawling across the bottom of the screen on the all-news TV channels reads, “New storm forming in the Atlantic”? Every time there’s a new named tropical storm do you get anxious because you can’t remember if you have five or fifteen cans of baked beans in the pantry?

Dr. Phil Klotzbach has good news for you. He and his colleagues are forecasting that the upcoming 2015 Atlantic hurricane season will be “one of the least active seasons since the middle of the 20th century.”

They estimate only a 15% chance this season of a major hurricane striking the Gulf Coast. This is only half of the 30% average experienced in the Gulf over the last century. Throughout the Atlantic they forecast only three hurricanes, also about half the average.

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Dr. Klotzbach, lead research scientist for Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project, made public their outlook for the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season last week on their website,

The project team forecasts the number of tropical storms, hurricanes, major hurricanes, and overall cyclone energy for the upcoming season. The group’s research has led them to use a variety of predictors, with two of the most important being sea surface temperature (SST) patterns in the tropical and subtropical Atlantic and Pacific oceans.

SSTs in the Atlantic are cooler than normal, and this is likely to continue into at least the early season. This means less energy available for tropical cyclones.

SSTs in the eastern Pacific are warmer than normal, one of several indicators that the massive ocean-atmosphere event known as El Nino has begun. Scientists think it is likely that El Nino will strengthen during hurricane season, resulting in upper level wind patterns that will hinder Atlantic tropical cyclone development.

CSU issues preseason outlooks in December and April. Klotzbach updates the outlook when hurricane season officially begins on June 1st, and again in early August as the heart of the Atlantic season approaches.

In recent years many other researchers, companies, and government agencies have developed alternative methods and predictors for generating a seasonal forecast. Most of those forecasters are also predicting a quieter than normal season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will release the official government outlook in early June.

But, before you get too complacent, just remember: even if there’s only one major hurricane, whomever it hits will have a bad year.

This week expect our rainy pattern to continue. An upper low over the southwestern U.S. continues to keep our upper level winds from the southwest. That is a generally moist pattern for us. As disturbances in the upper flow approach us, we will have periods of rain. The timing of these is hard to forecast more than 12 to 24 hours in advance. But, don’t be surprised if there’s some rain every day or night this week and into the weekend. And, according to the National Weather Service’s Weather Prediction Center, our rain totals for Monday through Sunday could exceed six inches.

By Skip Rigney