It's that time of year again: Time for homeowners, business owners and the property and casualty insurance industry to start preparing for the annual Atlantic hurricane season.
Colorado State University hurricane researchers are predicting a slightly below-average Atlantic hurricane season in 2017, citing the potential development of El Niño as well as recent anomalous cooling in the tropical Atlantic as primary factors.
2 major hurricanes predicted
The CSU Tropical Meteorology Project team is predicting 11 named storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30. Of those, researchers expect four to become hurricanes and two to reach major hurricane strength (Saffir/Simpson category 3-4-5) with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater.
Related: Hurricane catetgories explained
The team bases its forecasts on over 60 years of historical data that include Atlantic sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures, vertical wind shear levels (the change in wind direction and speed with height in the atmosphere), El Niño (warming of waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific), and other factors.
So far, the 2017 hurricane season is exhibiting characteristics similar to 1957, 1965, 1972, 1976, and 2002. “1957, 1965, 1976 and 2002 had slightly below-average hurricane activity, while 1972 was a well below-average season,” said Phil Klotzbach, research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science and lead author of the report.
Less active hurricane season than last year
The team predicts that 2017 hurricane activity will be about 85 percent of the average season. By comparison, 2016’s hurricane activity was about 135 percent of the average season.
This is the 34th year that the CSU hurricane research team has issued the Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecast. Recently, the Tropical Meteorology Project team has expanded to include Michael Bell, associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science. William Gray launched the report in 1984 and continued to be an author on them until his death last year.
Bell cautioned coastal residents to take proper precautions. “It takes only one storm near you to make this an active season,” Bell said.
The report also includes the probability of major hurricanes making landfall:
- 42 percent for the entire U.S. coastline (average for the last century is 52 percent).
- 24 percent for the U.S. East Coast including the Florida peninsula (average for the last century is 31 percent).
- 24 percent for the Gulf Coast from the Florida panhandle westward to Brownsville (average for the last century is 30 percent).
- 34 percent for the Caribbean (average for the last century is 42 percent).