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NOAA predicts below normal hurricane season

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Photo courtesty of NOAA-NASA GOES Project

MEDIA RELEASE

NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) announced Wednesday, May 20 projected climate conditions point to a near to below normal hurricane season in the Central Pacific Basin this year.   

An average season has 4-5 tropical cyclones, which includes tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes. The prediction was issued at a news conference called to urge Hawaii residents to be fully prepared for the onset of hurricane season, which begins June 1 and runs through November. 

“Living on an island in the middle of the Pacific means each person and family should have an emergency plan every hurricane season.  It is now time to review these plans before a storm threatens,” said Jim Weyman, director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. “Planning and preparation are key to surviving a hurricane.” 

noaa-bugThe forecast, a collaborative project with the Central Pacific Hurricane Center and NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, calls for an 80 percent chance of a near- to below- normal season.  Because of uncertainties in current predictions for El Nino, both a near-normal and below-normal season are equally likely at this time. The outlook also indicates a 20 percent chance of an above-normal season.  

Climate patterns similar to those expected this year have historically produced a wide range of activity. 

Allowing for these uncertainties, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center forecasts the expected occurrence of 3-5 tropical cyclones in the central Pacific during the 2009 season.  

This outlook is a general guide to the overall seasonal hurricane activity and does not predict whether, where, or when any of these systems will affect Hawaii.  

Once a tropical cyclone forms in the central Pacific or moves into the area, however, the hurricane center swings into action. 

“Our hurricane specialists are ready to track any tropical cyclone, from a depression to a hurricane in the Central Pacific Basin, and then provide accurate forecasts,” Weyman said.   

The Central Pacific Hurricane Center calls in additional staff meteorologists when a system forms. 

They continuously monitor the weather conditions, employing a dense network of satellites, land- and ocean-based sensors and aircraft reconnaissance missions operated by NOAA and its partners. 

This array of data supplies the information for complex computer modeling and human expertise that serves as the basis for the hurricane center’s track and intensity forecasts that extend out five days. 

The science behind the outlook is rooted in the analysis and prediction of current and future global climate patterns as compared to previous seasons with similar conditions.  

“The main factors influencing this year’s seasonal outlook are the possible development of an El Nino late in the season and the continuing multi-decadal signal. This signal is the combination of ocean and atmospheric conditions that have spawned decreased hurricane activity since 1995,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center.  

CPHC also announced the following changes and improvements: 

* Lead times for issuing hurricane watches and warnings are being extended to provide the public and decision makers additional time to make final preparations prior to a hurricane strike. The lead time for a hurricane watch will be extended from 36 hours to within 48 hours. The lead time for a hurricane warning will be extended from 24 hours to within 36 hours. 

* The tropical weather outlook will now provide a low, medium, or high chance for an area of disturbance to become a tropical cyclone. Previously the forecast only indicated whether or not the area would develop. 

* Additional information about tropical cyclone locations and a high resolution, experimental wind field graphic showing expected wind speeds and directions from many points will also be generated. 

No hurricane has made landfall in Hawaii since Hurricane Iniki passed directly over Kauai on Sept. 11, 1992. It caused an estimated $2 billion in damage and six deaths.

— Find out more:

Central Pacific Hurricane Center:  www.prh.noaa.gov/cphc/

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