The 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season Prediction–what’s it mean for you?

The researchers at Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project have updated their outlook for the 2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season. They’ve been issuing such predictions for over two decades and have earned some credibility in the field.

They expect this season to be an active one with 16 named storms (hurricanes and tropical storms). Of the 16, 9 are forecast to blossom into full-fledged hurricanes with 5 becoming major, that is, category 3 or greater with winds in excess of 110 mph. And–GULP–get this: there’s a 72% chance that one of those majors will thunder over a U.S. coastline.

Time to start putting up the hurricane shutters? Probably not. (Maybe after you read Eyewall.) Consider what happened last season after the CSU group warned that there was a 69% probability one of those monsters would hammer the U.S. Although the 2010 season tied for the second-most active since 1944, not a single hurricane, major or minor, swirled across one of our beaches.

In fact–get this–the U.S. hasn’t been blasted by a major hurricane in the past 5 years. And the East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula, hasn’t been assaulted by a hurricane of any kind, fierce or flabby, in the same period. Weird. So is the eastern U.S. overdue? Maybe. But again, each season is an entity unto itself.

Assuming that 16 named storms do spin up this year, would that make the season truly “active.” Well, yes and no. The long-term average (since 1966) of named storms is a bit over 11. So using that number as a reference, yes, the season would be active. But wait a minute. If you look at the average since 1995 of 15 tropical cyclones per year, then no, 16 would not be that unusual.

Besides, what difference does it make? I mean, last season 19 storms and hurricanes prowled the Atlantic, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean, yet U.S. coastlines went virtually unmolested. Only one tropical storm, Bonnie, swirled into Texas.

In contrast, consider the 1992 season. A piddly 6 tropical cyclones popped up in the Atlantic Basin. But one of them, Andrew, delivered a catastrophic blow to Florida. Andrew was the last cat 5 monster to clobber the U.S. (At least until my fictional Hurricane Janet did in Eyewall.)

So to answer the question posed in the headline, What’s the seasonal forecast mean for you? Not much, quite frankly. Especially if you live in North Dakota. But even if you’re a beach dweller in the Hamptons, St. Simons Island, West Palm Beach or South Padre Island, you should take the same precautions this year as you do every year.

Your turn in the barrel will come, I guarantee it. It’s just that nobody knows when. Not even the smart guys at Colorado State.

Photo: The 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season
The 2010 hurricane season was one of the most active on record.  Yet not not a single hurricane made landfall in the U.S.  And curiously, the nation has not been struck by a major hurricane (winds in excess of 110 mph) since 2005.

Leave a Comment