NOAA touts hurricane season forecast success

Via NOAA press release: Atlantic hurricane season stays quiet as predicted

Improved model, new surge forecast products and research projects debuted

NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Arthur; July 3, 2014. (Credit: NOAA)

The Atlantic hurricane season will officially end November 30, and will be remembered as a relatively quiet season as was predicted. Still, the season afforded NOAA scientists with opportunities to produce new forecast products, showcase successful modeling advancements, and conduct research to benefit future forecasts.

“Fortunately, much of the U.S. coastline was spared this year with only one landfalling hurricane along the East Coast. Nevertheless, we know that’s not always going to be the case,” said Louis Uccellini, Ph.D., director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “The ‘off season’ between now and the start of next year’s hurricane season is the best time for communities to refine their response plans and for businesses and individuals to make sure they’re prepared for any potential storm.”

How the Atlantic Basin seasonal outlooks from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center verified:


“A combination of atmospheric conditions acted to suppress the Atlantic hurricane season, including very strong vertical wind shear, combined with increased atmospheric stability, stronger sinking motion and drier air across the tropical Atlantic,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “Also, the West African monsoon was near- to below average, making it more difficult for African easterly waves to develop.”

Meanwhile, the eastern North Pacific hurricane season met or exceeded expectations with 20 named storms – the busiest since 1992. Of those, 14 became hurricanes and eight were major hurricanes. NOAA’s seasonal hurricane outlook called for 14 to 20 named storms, including seven to 11 hurricanes, of which three to six were expected to become major hurricanes. Two hurricanes (Odile and Simon) brought much-needed moisture to the parts of the southwestern U.S., with very heavy rain from Simon causing flooding in some areas.

“Conditions that favored an above-normal eastern Pacific hurricane season included weak vertical wind shear, exceptionally moist and unstable air, and a strong ridge of high pressure in the upper atmosphere that helped to keep storms in a conducive environment for extended periods,” added Bell.

In the central North Pacific hurricane basin, there were five named storms (four hurricanes, including a major hurricane, and one tropical storm). NOAA’s seasonal hurricane outlook called for four to seven tropical cyclones to affect the central Pacific this season. The most notable storm was major Hurricane Iselle, which hit the Big Island of Hawaii in early August as a tropical storm, and was the first tropical cyclone to make landfall in the main Hawaiian Islands since Hurricane Iniki in 1992. Hurricane Ana was also notable in that it was the longest-lived tropical cyclone (13 days) of the season and the longest-lived central Pacific storm of the satellite era.

New & improved products this year

As part of its efforts to provide better products and services, NOAA’s National Weather Service introduced many new and experimental products that are already paying off.

The upgrade of the Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) model in June with increased vertical resolution and improved physics produced excellent forecasts for Hurricane Arthur’s landfall in the Outer Banks of North Carolina, and provided outstanding track forecasts in the Atlantic basin through the season. The model, developed by NOAA researchers, is also providing guidance on tropical cyclones in other basins globally, including the Western Pacific and North Indian Ocean basins, benefiting the Joint Typhoon Warning Center and several international operational forecast agencies. The Global Forecast System (GFS) model has also been a valuable tool over the last couple of hurricane seasons, providing excellent guidance in track forecasts out to 120 hours.

In 2014, NOAA’s National Hurricane Center introduced an experimental five-day Graphical Tropical Weather Outlook to accompany its text product for both the Atlantic and eastern North Pacific basins. The new graphics indicate the likelihood of development and the potential formation areas of new tropical cyclones during the next five days. NHC also introduced an experimental Potential Storm Surge Flooding Map for those areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States at risk of storm surge from an approaching tropical cyclone. First used on July 1 as a strengthening Tropical Storm Arthur targeted the North Carolina coastline, the map highlights those geographical areas where inundation from storm surge could occur and the height above ground that the water could reach.

Beginning with the 2015 hurricane season, NHC plans to offer a real-time experimental storm surge watch/warning graphic for areas along the Gulf and Atlantic coasts of the United States where there is a danger of life-threatening storm surge inundation from an approaching tropical cyclone.

Fostering further improvements

While this year’s hurricane season was fairly quiet, NOAA scientists used new tools that have the potential to improve hurricane track and intensity forecasts. Several of these tools resulted from research projects supported by the Disaster Relief Appropriations Act of 2013, which was passed by Congress in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

Among the highlights were both manned and unmanned aircraft missions in Atlantic hurricanes to collect data and evaluate forecast models. NOAA and NASA’s missions involving the Global Hawk, an unmanned aircraft that flies at higher altitudes and for longer periods of time than manned aircraft, allowed scientists to sample weather information off the west coast of Africa where hurricanes form, and also to investigate Hurricane Edouard’s inner core with eight crossings over the hurricane’s eye. NOAA launched a three-year project to assess the impact of data collected by the Global Hawk on forecast models and to design sampling strategies to improve model forecasts of hurricane track and intensity.

While the Global Hawk flew high above hurricanes, NOAA used the much smaller Coyote, an unmanned aircraft system released from NOAA’s hurricane hunter manned aircraft, to collect wind, temperature and other weather data in hurricane force winds during Edouard. The Coyote flew into areas of the storm that would be too dangerous for manned aircraft, sampling weather in and around the eyewall at very low altitudes. In addition, NOAA’s hurricane hunters gathered data in Hurricanes Arthur, Bertha and Cristobal, providing information to improve forecasts and to test, refine and improve forecast models. The missions were directed by research meteorologists from NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division, a part of the Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory in Miami, and the NOAA Aircraft Operations Center in Tampa.

In addition, increased research and operational computing capacity planned in 2015 will facilitate future model upgrades to the GFS and HWRF to include better model physics and higher resolution predictions. These upgraded models will provide improved guidance to forecasters leading to better hurricane track and intensity predictions.

The 2015 hurricane season begins June 1 for the Atlantic Basin and central North Pacific, and on May 15 for the eastern North Pacific. NOAA will issue seasonal outlooks for all three basins in May. Learn how to prepare at and FEMA’s

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November 24, 2014 9:24 am

Joe Bastardi did just as well – here’s a sweet way for the NOAA to save a lot of time and money in the future: Just copy Joe Bastardi’s predictions and pretend they were your own, you’ll have this kind of success every year!

Joe Bastardi
Reply to  wws
November 24, 2014 4:36 pm

Thanks for your kindness, Ours also outlines areas of highest activity and we did very well on that.. having very little in the deep tropics and stressing the areas north of 22.5 north in the western Atlantic Basin. I remind people that the end game of the warm AMO is not known for numbers, but more higher intensity in close and its possible, if not likely, that before returning to the overall quieter years as Gray has outlined, there is a burst of landfalling bigger hurricanes that would of course send the AGW crowd wild.
[22.5 ? Did you mean 23.5 (the tropics) or did you divide the hemisphere into 22.5 quarters? .mod]

November 24, 2014 9:35 am

Do they mean downgraded tropical storm Sandy or Category 1 storm Sandy?

Gary Meyers
Reply to  Resourceguy
November 24, 2014 10:46 am

Sandy was a 2012 storm.

November 24, 2014 9:44 am

Difficult to miss with such broad ranges.

November 24, 2014 9:47 am

BBC Radio 4 just claimed NOAA stated new systems were needed because of imminent extreme weather caused by man made climate change…

View from the Solent
Reply to  Mardler
November 24, 2014 9:49 am

That’ll be extreme absence of hurricanes.

Reply to  View from the Solent
November 24, 2014 10:53 am

Man-made very extreme moderateness of hurricane count and energy.

November 24, 2014 9:51 am

Need a Wayback machine for NOAA. I seem to remember an average season forecast in the Atlantic with about 10+ hurricanes predicted

Stephen Richards
Reply to  J. Philip Peterson
November 24, 2014 1:25 pm

Yes, note the table only shows their august and september guesses not their earlier ones.

Stephen Richards
Reply to  Stephen Richards
November 24, 2014 1:25 pm

OOPS coq up. Aug and May.

November 24, 2014 9:56 am

Next on the list is to check the vagueness on they prediction statements. That tends to be more powerful than any supercomputers for wiggle room.

November 24, 2014 9:57 am

Now if NOAA would only come clean on its claim that October 2014 was the warmest October for global warming in recorded history. All it has to do is look at its own data to know this is not true.

Reply to  JimS
November 24, 2014 3:03 pm

They’re busy torturing that data, Jim. Won’t be long before the data agrees with the headline.

Jim Clarke
November 24, 2014 10:10 am

I think everyone in the long-range tropical forecasting business did pretty well this year. Many of the forecasts were based largely on the expectation that there would be a stronger El Nino during the season, increasing the wind shear and reducing the number of storms. The El Nino didn’t materialize as many expected, but the wind shear was strong anyway, and other factors listed above made up the slack.
We have a tendency on this site to be a rather critical bunch, largely because the main focus is on AGW, which generally deserves every bit of our criticism. But the good folks at the National Hurricane Center are preforming a valuable service to the citizens of the United States and the world. They have worked hard over the years to improve their hurricane intensity and tracking forecasts, which ultimately saves lives and billions of dollars in preparation costs. They have tirelessly beat the drum of hurricane preparation and mitigation for decades, even though they are largely ignored by local governments, businesses and individuals alike.
Yes… the seasonal forecasts are largely a media event with little value to society, but they do foster a growing understanding of the actual Earth’s climate, as they are quickly verifiable.
I just want to go on record as being grateful to the folks at the National Hurricane Center for the work they do. No one can predict the future with absolute accuracy, but these folks have worked hard to get better at it over the years, to the benefit of everyone who lives within 300 miles of the Atlantic or Gulf of Mexico.

William R
November 24, 2014 10:13 am

NOAA’s success this year can be attributed to their new prediction model, dubbed “Blind Squirrel”.

Reply to  William R
November 24, 2014 11:12 am

Still laughing as I write this.

Reply to  William R
November 24, 2014 12:00 pm

My vote for comment of the week and it’s only Monday.

Reply to  William R
November 24, 2014 5:08 pm

Add me to the list +10

Gerry Parker
Reply to  William R
November 24, 2014 5:34 pm


November 24, 2014 10:15 am

It’s like living in 1984. Isn’t this the same alarmist organization that predicted more storms? But now claiming they predicted less and were right? Is Winston Smith going to hit the archives and “fix” the predictions?

Billy Liar
November 24, 2014 10:23 am

I posted this at BishopHill last week. Appropriate here also (slightly edited):
‘It’s dead, Jim’ – another well below average Atlantic hurricane season draws to a close. Eight storms, 6 hurricanes and an ACE of 64. The Met Office forecast 10 storms, 6 hurricanes, an ACE of 84 with a 70% chance of the ranges being 7-13 storms, 3-9 hurricanes, an ACE of 47-121. The ranges cover from below average to above average in each category so it only remains to claim total success in the Verification of 2014 Seasonal Tropical Storm Forecasts for the North Atlantic report.
I do hope they remember to say that this is the ninth consecutive year of no landfalling major hurricane in the US and that this is unprecedented; in fact, even more unprecedented than it was last year:
For the eighth year in a row, no major hurricanes made landfall in the United States. This is the first time since relatively reliable landfall data became available in 1878 that the US has had an eight-year period without a major hurricane landfall (CSU 2013).

Reply to  Billy Liar
November 24, 2014 10:46 am

Yes, it is the 9th year in a row since Wilma in 2005 that a cat 3 Hurricane hit the US mainland.

Reply to  Billy Liar
November 24, 2014 2:20 pm

It would behoove them to lean toward a lower number than they expect. Then a normal year would fall under “It’s worse than we thought”.

November 24, 2014 10:23 am

It seems to me they are using the old adage of “predict today for tomorrow”. And you get it correct about 60% of the time.

November 24, 2014 10:40 am

when you’re constantly “adjusting” your predictions……..

November 24, 2014 10:44 am

I’d be curious to know the expert take on datum that, although we were very much on the low/quiet side in regard to total overall numbers against prediction, the number of hurricanes and major hurricanes was corresponding on the high side (not a large number – still down – mind, but even so). Is there any significance we should be paying attention to in there being fewer storms overall yet generally more powerful storms when they did form?

Billy Liar
Reply to  Tracy M. Bovee
November 24, 2014 2:19 pm

I am not an expert but it seems to me that hurricanes are pursued at any expense now. Hurricane Edouard had no expense spared on it:
On September 16, several unmanned drones designed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration were launched by Hurricane Hunter aircraft while investigating Edouard. This marked the first time that drones were used in such a manner by NOAA. Unlike the manned aircraft, the drones were able to fly to the lower-levels of hurricanes and investigate the more dangerous areas near the surface.[67] Additionally, a NASA-operated Global Hawk flew into the storm, equipped with two experimental instruments: the Scanning High-resolution Interferometer Sounder (S-HIS) and Cloud Physics Lidar (CPL). The S-HIS provided measurements of temperature and relative humidity while the CPL was for studying aerosols and the structure of cloud layers within hurricanes. (Credit:
It is quite possible that Hurricane Edouard was only a major hurricane for a matter of hours over the open ocean. The peak winds were reputedly 115mph – only 4 miles per hour into the major hurricane classification. It is doubtful that this sort of hurricane – short-lived in the ‘major’ category and well away from land, would have been reported as such in the past.

Reply to  Billy Liar
November 24, 2014 3:12 pm

The increased intensity with higher scrutiny is something I have pointed out in the past as being analogous to the higher number of sunspots once got better telescopes. In reading the discussions, I have noted a couple of occasions where they have stated themselves that the intensity was increased based on flight level measurements when the satellite and pressure readings would not have indicated the higher level. I think we aer still in a situation of increased monitoring is giving increased ACE measurements.
And you only have to look at the tracks to see that neither of the two major hurricanes (Edouard and Gonzalo) would have been noted a few years ago as they never got anywhere near a major coastline.
I appreciate what NOAA do in forecasting storms once they develop, but the yearly comparisons still smack of political involvement.

Billy Liar
Reply to  Billy Liar
November 25, 2014 9:15 am

Thanks for that image. You can see that Edouard was only a major hurricane for 4 hours and only 4 mph into the major category. I somehow doubt that unless there had been a drone onslaught it would not have been recorded as a major hurricane.
There are a few other storms in the recent past which have questionable categorization.

Mike Maguire
November 24, 2014 10:49 am

Very impressive bunch they are.
I had the opportunity to accompany a “Hurricane Hunter” flight into Hurricane Gloria in September 1985. As television stations will do, they decided it would be a great way to catch the attention of viewers, help ratings and make me look good…………….despite the fact that I was chief meteorologist for an Indiana station, almost 1,000 miles from the nearest ocean,
Our news director played a key role in operating the communications system in these airplanes some 40 years earlier and had some connections to arrange the trip.
For non family related thrills, this one was at the top.

Reply to  Mike Maguire
November 24, 2014 12:13 pm

Here in Florida we have a healthy respect for them. It’s definitely an E-Ticket ride.

November 24, 2014 10:58 am

How about NOAA just buy Battlin’ Joe’s forecast and fire all of the hurricane staff.

Louis LeBlanc
November 24, 2014 10:59 am

NOAA publishes tortured statistics about their accuracy in hurricane predictions. Looking at their predictions versus actual storm activity reveals a truly pitiful record, even with the huge ranges they publish. Check it out: named storms, hurricanes, majors, and ACE all run about 60-80% WRONG. Sugar coat it in terms of good intentions, hard work, etc., if you wish, but the fact is that weather can’t be accurately predicted more than a couple of weeks out. Try planning an outdoor event.

November 24, 2014 11:19 am

Atlantic hurricane season stays quiet as predicted
Should we call this the “Watts Effect”? Has there been a category 3 or higher that struck the United States since this blog started?

Reply to  wbrozek
November 24, 2014 11:38 am

It has been 3318 days since Hurricane Wilma (24 Oct 2005), the latest Cat 3 storm to hit the mainland US.

Reply to  tadchem
November 25, 2014 5:41 am

And since the Copyright notice at the bottom of the page says the site contains material copyright 2006-2014 if would appear there hasn’t been a major hurricane hit the US mainland since WUWT started.

November 24, 2014 11:41 am

If NOAA would just sit down and read a book on Poisson statistics (the statistics of occasional events) they would know the confidence limits on such run close to +/- 100% of the mean. Forecasts based on well-known statistics are generally far more accurate than those based on the wishful thinking of someone with a vested interest.

Reply to  tadchem
November 24, 2014 12:58 pm

Good point.
It would be much more value of money to just use Poisson statistics than to let a bunch of people make expensive toys and useless statements. Could be done in a few hours, and be valid for decades.

Leon Brozyna
November 24, 2014 11:56 am

How do they do it?comment image

November 24, 2014 12:13 pm

So, climate science, or at least hurricane events, may be constrained to annual periods. I wonder how accuracy varies and will vary on decadel scales.

November 24, 2014 12:22 pm

” Blow, winds, and crack your cheeks! rage! blow!
You cataracts and hurricanoes…” [King Lear, W Shakespear]
Maybe busy and quiet hurricane seasons aren’t anything particularly new?

November 24, 2014 1:37 pm

I notice that their major hurricane prediction in May was 1-2. With half the season over by August they reduced that to 0-2. Actual result; 2. They got to revise the score at halftime and guessed worse.

Mark from the Midwest
November 24, 2014 3:16 pm

In August of 2013 NOAA predicted average temps and average precipitation for the coming winter season of the Great Lakes … didn’t see too many press releases about what happened there …

November 24, 2014 4:35 pm
Chris R.
November 24, 2014 4:52 pm

To DavidC:
Guess again. Your link was for the 2013 hurricane season forecast.

Reply to  Chris R.
November 24, 2014 6:00 pm


November 24, 2014 4:56 pm

Its hard to be wrong when they give themselves such a large range in the number of storms (7-12 named storms). the prediction range is about 50% larger than it was 10 years ago

November 24, 2014 10:45 pm

Has NOAA given up producing a “seasonal climate summary” for hurricane forecasting or has it been moved. I noticed they didn’t produce 1 for last year but with this seasons spot on prediction maybe they bring it back
2013 August
The outlook indicates a 70% chance of an above-normal season, a 25% chance of a near-normal season, and only a 5% chance for a below-normal season
•13-19 Named Storms
•6-9 Hurricanes
•3-5 Major Hurricanes
•Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) range of 120%-190% of the median
Actual activity
13 Named Storms
2 Hurricanes
0 Major Hurricanes
I realize that almost everybody got their forecast wrong last year (did anyone call for below avg?) but maybe its a little early to celebrate the latest and greatest model based upon 1 seasons results.
Wishing NOAA and their new model all the best

November 25, 2014 4:58 am

It seem with the wide range with forcast (around 6), NOAA model predicted generally (low, medium, high), then rolled a di to pick the range.
With the large range for a high level of confidence, the prediction seems to have only general value. It is like predicting stocks will go up -10 to +30 percent next year

November 26, 2014 5:45 pm

With Atlantic Hurricane ACE data from 1950 to 2014, and ACE for 2014 of 65, the correlation between year and ACE is .017 ( p = .89).

November 27, 2014 7:49 am

Well they’re tooting their own horn now about their “success” but I remember well how miserably wrong their 2013 forecast was and how they glossed over it refusing to admit that it was so far off it was embarrassing.

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