NOAA: Above-normal Atlantic hurricane season is most likely this year

‘Weak or non-existent’ El Nino is a factor


Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center say the Atlantic could see another above-normal hurricane season this year.

For the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through November 30, forecasters predict a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 35 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season.

“As a Florida resident, I am particularly proud of the important work NOAA does in weather forecasting and hurricane prediction,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “These forecasts are important for both public safety and business planning, and are a crucial function of the federal government.”

Atlantic hurricane outlook

Forecasters predict a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). An average season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

These numbers include Tropical Storm Arlene, a rare pre-season storm that formed over the eastern Atlantic in April.

“The outlook reflects our expectation of a weak or non-existent El Nino, near- or above-average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in that same region,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Strong El Ninos and wind shear typically suppress development of Atlantic hurricanes, so the prediction for weak conditions points to more hurricane activity this year. Also, warmer sea surface temperatures tend to fuel hurricanes as they move across the ocean. However, the climate models are showing considerable uncertainty, which is reflected in the comparable probabilities for an above-normal and near-normal season.

hurricane names

“NOAA’s broad range of expertise and resources support the nation with strong science and service before, during and after each storm to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy as we continue building a Weather-Ready Nation,” said Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator. “From our expert modelers to our dedicated forecasters and brave crews of our hurricane hunters, we’ll be here to warn the nation every step of the way this hurricane season.”

NOAA brings exciting new observing, modeling, forecasting and communications tools to the table this year to improve our hurricane warning capabilities and aid public readiness:

  • Even before its final positioning, the sophisticated camera on NOAA’s new GOES-16 satellite will give our hurricane forecasters a sneak peek at its greater image resolution, sharp detail and rapid-refresh rate. One of the powerful instruments aboard GOES-16, the lightning mapper, will allow forecasters to see lightning strikes that build within tropical cyclones – a possible signal of strengthening.
  • The combination of two high-resolution hurricane models will improve forecast guidance for the National Hurricane Center this season. The upgraded Hurricane Weather Research Forecast model adds better representation of storms at higher vertical resolution, and has advanced data assimilation and improved physics. With these upgrades, the model can improve intensity forecasts by as much as 10 percent and track forecasts by as much as seven percent. NOAA’s Environmental Modeling Center also is replacing the Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory Hurricane Model with a new hurricane model called HMON, for Hurricanes in a Multi-Scale Ocean-Coupled Non-Hydrostatic, which has superior track and intensity forecast skill.

“​Regardless of how many storms ​develop this year, it only takes one to disrupt our lives​,” said Acting FEMA Administrator Robert J. Fenton, Jr. “Get ready now with these easy, low-cost steps that will leave you better prepared and will make all the difference: Have a family discussion about what ​you will do, where you will go and how you will communicate with each other when a storm threatens; Know your evacuation route; tune into your local news or download the FEMA app to get alerts, ​and ​finally – listen to local authorities ​as a storm approaches.”

The 2016 season was the most active since 2012, with 15 named storms, including 7 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes.

NOAA will update this outlook in early August, just prior to the peak of the season.

NOAA also issued seasonal hurricane outlooks outlooks for the eastern Pacific and central Pacific hurricane basins. An 80 percent chance of a near- or above-normal season is predicted for each region. The eastern Pacific outlook also calls for a 70 percent probability of 14 to 20 named storms, of which 6 to 11 are expected to become hurricanes, including 3 to 7 major hurricanes. The central Pacific outlook calls for a 70 percent probability of 5 to 8 tropical cyclones, which includes tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes.

85 thoughts on “NOAA: Above-normal Atlantic hurricane season is most likely this year

  1. “However, the climate models are showing considerable uncertainty”
    I’m pretty certain these aren’t climate models, at least as we here, understand that term.

    • The point of the article is to tell me what this year’s projection is. I will take it under advisement as I always do. I live in Central Florida and hurricanes can be very damaging.

      • But their projections prepare you for nothing. wetting you finger and putting it into the air sometime today will allow you to predict with as much accuracy.
        When the tropical depressions form East of Africa, then you can take it under advisement with a certain level of predictability. This report is meaningless to you.

      • By taking it under advisement, do you contemplate changing your plans or moving elsewhere this summer/fall, based on this forecast?

      • “By taking it under advisement, do you contemplate changing your plans or moving elsewhere this summer/fall, based on this forecast?”
        Not at all. I have been listening to them for years. Their guess is just one data point and they are wrong a lot. There is a report that comes out of Colorado (I think) that normally beats them every year. But still, I do appreciate WUWT running this article.

      • @powers2be
        “When the tropical depressions form East of Africa, then you can take it under advisement with a certain level of predictability. This report is meaningless to you.”
        We agree that watching tropical depressions is the most important thing. We disagree that the report is meaningless. It is not totally meaningless, it is darn near meaningless. 🙂
        I take this report under advisement in making my guesses for the coming year. It is only one of a host of factors however. Plus the report gives a lot of folks a chance to make fun of them at the end of the season many years — that has value also.

      • Perfect (100% certain) information only has value if it changes a decision that you would make without it, otherwise it is useless. This however is not even perfect information, it is imperfect information, as it could very well be extremely wrong, in which case not only is the information worth $0, it could be worth less than zero.

      • When the tropical depressions form East west of Africa, then you can take it under advisement with a certain level of predictability.

    • qbagwell – exactly! Wilbur Ross is “proud of NOAA weather forecasting” – it is a “crucial function of federal government” ! Really?? – It is so close to 50 – 50% chance that it is meaningless, in my opinion.

      • NOAA is not being cut in any area of its operations. The proposal (available at in a document titled “Major Savings and Reforms” is to remove the ability of NOAA to make grants (in Fed speak: giveaways of taxpayer dollars that get nothing in return). Here is the proposal:

        The Budget proposes to eliminate funding for several lower priority, and in many cases, unauthorized, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) grant and education programs, including Sea Grant, the National Estuarine Research Reserve System, Coastal Zone Management Grants, the Office of Education, and the Pacific Coastal Salmon Recovery Fund. These eliminations would allow NOAA to better target remaining resources to core missions and services.
        Funding Summary
        (In millions of dollars)
        2017 CR: 262; 2018 Request: 0; 2018 Change from 2017 Budget Authority: -262;
        Justification: These grant and education programs generally support State, local, and/or industry interests, and these entities may choose to continue some of this work with their own funding. In addition, these grants often are not optimally targeted, in many instances favoring certain species or geographic areas over others or distributing funds by formula rather than directing them to programs and projects with the greatest need or potential benefit. NOAA will continue to serve as a resource and provide technical assistance as appropriate on many of the issues funded by these programs.

        Nevertheless, I am sure that the proposed cut will elicit howls of outrage, the same way as any proposal to limit welfare for white people does. (e.g. CPB)

  2. Notice how, as always, NOAA avoids reporting the accuracy of their past reports and the distribution of storms in past seasons? These reports are just a waste of taxpayers’ money and the NOAA staff responsible for assembling them should just be terminated.

  3. Looked at another way, a below or near normal season is more likely than an above normal one!

    • quaesoveritas; correct, but “below or near normal” would not allow the advertising and funding support that is obviously needed. Another reason why there is no past ‘skill’ record being trumpeted.

      • I have noticed this is a trend with most forecasts. The MO seasonal (do they still do that?), usually consisted of approximately equal probabilities above average and below average temperatures, and above average and below average rainfall, with very little forecasting skill involved. Thus all forecasts are “correct”, within the probability ranges. Its the same with short term forecasts. If the forecast sun, with a probability of rain of <5%, if it rains, they say, "well we did say there was a small chance of rain". It's usually not as clear cut as that, with the probability of rain of say 50/50 making the forecast almost totally useless. It wouldn't be so bad, but they base their success statistics on those probabilities making the forecast almost always "correct", no matter what happens.

      • Weather forecasts – horoscopes with numbers.
        Auto, certainly aware that that applies in full force in the UK out beyond (maybe as much as) 30 hours.
        Next Friday week – we will get weather. Full stop.

      • Climate forecasts are what drops from the southern end of a north-bound bull.
        With qualifications, and steam.

    by Philip J. Klotzbach and Michael M. Bell [Department of Atmospheric Science — Colorado State University] (as of 6 April 2017)
    We anticipate that the 2017 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have slightly below-average activity. The current neutral ENSO is likely to transition to either weak or moderate El Niño conditions by the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. The tropical Atlantic has anomalously cooled over the past month and the far North Atlantic is relatively cold, potentially indicative of a negative phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation. We anticipate a below-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and in the Caribbean. As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them. They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.

    • Kloztbach and Bell ought to scoot up to Boulder to get their story aligned with the NOAA boys.

      • brians356 ==> Kloztbach and Bell are Dr. Bill Gray’ s protege’s, having worked with him and been trained under his careful hand. The NASA boys and girls at Boulder ought rather to scoot down to Fort Collins and get their prediction aligned with Kloztbach and save themselves some embarrassment.

    • Interesting point about only one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season. I seem to remember that Andrew was the only hurricane that made landfall that year, but it was a doozie!

      • Rhoda R ==> Hurricanes are like boxed chocolates — one never knows what one will get. with Tropical Storm Sandy, New York City got massive damage from storm surge — almost nothing attributable to high winds. I wrote about Sandy way back then….

      • How much of a doozie a US landfall hurricane is has much to do with the coastal SSTs. They are presently above normal off the east coast, so smaller storms from the east could amplify from higher SSTs before landfall. If conditions are right inland, there could be more energy yet as the storm turns from wind to rainfall.
        Storms which develop in the western Atlantic will be the major players if I understand Joe Bastardi right.

    • Then there is the option of recategorizing storms. Make 30MPH winds a tropical storm and similarly downward define gales and hurricane and you can easily meet your predictions.

  5. Yes, we may have hurricanes…
    I expect them to lower the “hurricane wind speed” to, say, 40mph. Then we will get a lot of scary hurricanes.

    • “I expect them to lower the “hurricane wind speed” to, say, 40mph….”
      Kinda takes the hurry out of “hurricanes”. We could call them, I dunno? “calmicanes”?

  6. I am puzzled. We hear of a hurricane drought. Major hurricanes don’t seem to be making landfall in the United States. When you look at this data there doesn’t seem to be a lack of hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin.
    Are hurricanes somehow being repelled from America? 🙂

    • When you look at this data there doesn’t seem to be a lack of hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin….
      When you look at their data….they need to proof read
      Last major hurricane = 2013
      US Major land falling hurricane = last 2015

  7. I find the headline confusing. There’s a 45% chance that the season will be above normal, and a 55% chance that it will not be above normal. How is 45% more likely than 55%? I’m not a scientist, and I didn’t stay at a Holiday Inn Express last night, so that’s probably my issue in not understanding this,

  8. Didn’t I read here, that they are including storms that will never threaten the US, now. As that first one they named. Of course we will see an increase in the number of storms………which will be “proof” of climate change.

    • The reason tropical storm Arlene was rare is that there was no preceding low pressure system this far northeast, with such a low SST that was ever considered to be a tropical storm. We just look at the pictures nowadays and when there is an eye formation in the cloud cover, it just has to be a tropical storm.

  9. Well, since NOAA has predicted above normal hurricane seasons for most of the past 12 years (since Katrina), they’re due to be right eventually. Maybe this year. Naturally, the media will trumpet the accuracy of climate models in predicting massive hurricane outbreaks as they suffer collective amnesia about the past 12 quiet years that were predicted to be otherwise.

  10. I am going with the Gambler’s Fallacy on this one. This year has to be the biggest year evah because it has been so long since we saw a major hurricane.
    I am particularly going to keep an eye on Hurricane Harvey! That is going to be the invisible storm with tremendous impact.

  11. It’ll be interesting to see if the longest large-hurricane drought (CAT 3+) making US landfall can be extended to 12 years this year, which would set a new historic record (since 1850).
    I assume Dr. Pielke will soon be updating his hurricane drought chart.

  12. Without also publishing their thresholds for “above normal” and “below normal”, these probability estimates are meaningless. You could, for example, guarantee to five-nines that any season would be “normal” if you defined the range broadly enough.

  13. The problem is that this is too tied to the strict definition of El Nino and La Nina and temperatures in specific locations of the tropical Pacific. During the past 6 months, based on this we have had a weak La Nina. However, the effect of the Pacific Ocean as a whole on the atmosphere has been much more like those that we experience during a moderate to strong El Nino.
    Note the numerous drought busting storms that hit California from the atmospheric rivers of moisture and the mild to record warmth downstream for much of the Midwest and East, especially very warm in November and February vs seasonal averages. This was a very El Nino like response. Humans can define an El Nino however they want but the vast Pacific ocean and atmosphere outside of the key zone used to define El Nino, can overwhelm it……did overwhelm it this past Winter.
    Models do in fact morph the Pacific into human, technically defined weak El Nino territory later this year, so this would line up more with how the actual atmosphere has been acting for the last 6 months, which has been very El Nino like(based just on the correlation between El Nino and downstream atmospheric responses/effects).
    Predicting the hurricane season is a tough challenge but I think the reasoning for more hurricanes this year is flawed and right now, based on observing the actual downstream atmospheric response from the entire Pacific Ocean over the past 6 months, would use the same reasoning to predict LESS hurricanes.

  14. NOAA: Above-normal Atlantic hurricane season is most likely this year….
    ……………45 percent chance of an above-normal season
    Call me crazy, but a 55% chance of it not being above normal……says
    NOAA: “”Below”” normal Atlantic hurricane season is most likely this year

  15. Smoke and mirrors:
    Clever choice of words – The chance of above-normal might be larger than below-normal xor normal, but 45% means simply less likely than not!

  16. Since NOAA has been fudging the planet’s temperature readings, how can we trust them that this is an accurate forecast?

  17. I live in Florida and these pre-season predictions are just water cooler subjects. The real predictions that matter come when there is an active hurricane and the prediction path puts it at or near landfall. THEN what NOAA does becomes very important. BTW, my seasonal hurricane prep isn’t determined by what the long term predictions say.

  18. I do find these forecasts amusing. Many have stated that what NOAA is saying is really the opposite in that there is a greater than average chance it will be a lower season.
    However, and as pointed out by others, their real job is to talk all through events as they happen and that is where I believe they fail and consistently overplay storms to the extent that people actually think they have experienced storms that they have not.
    That is dangerous when the next big one really hits.

  19. I think they have doctored the wind speed for years.
    I found the noaa bouy website years ago. I have never seen wind speeds from buoys or land based weather stations that were anywhere near what was being reported as a hurricane passed.

  20. NOAA: Above-normal Atlantic hurricane season is most likely this year

    I’m not sure what they mean.
    Are they referring to the average (over an unspecified period of time) or the “New Normal” (again, over an unspecified period of time) or above what “The Climate Models” have predicted…projected but failed to materialize?
    Nature has finally provided a bunch of tornadoes. Maybe they figure Nature will finally provide a few of the hurricanes the Manniquines “projected” Man would cause?
    PS No intention to sound heartless toward those suffering from what are Natural weather events.
    Just heartless toward those who mannipulate and twist such events for political and/or personal gain.

    • Do they really mean “above normal” or do they mean “above average”? The two are very different. “Above normal” means outside the range which makes up the present average, whereas…well I’m sure you get the point.

  21. Wow when they make predictions they really go out on a limb, don’t they! Looks like they’ve got all the bases covered, they can make excuses no matter what happens. Why do we even pay people to do this?

  22. “Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center say the Atlantic could see another above-normal hurricane season this year.”
    Another? When was the last time we had an above-normal hurricane season? 2005?

  23. Wait long enough and there will be another cat 5 in the Gulf of Mexico. And every year that there isn’t a land falling hurricane only increases the odds for the next year. Keep predicting the end of the world, and some day it will happen. Be sure to send me your money so I can prevent that from happening. I can’t stress how important it is that I take control of everything, we don’t have much time left, the window of opportunity is closing. Sound familiar?

  24. I used to read stories about how the ancient Romans and Greeks would forecast the future by examining the entrails of birds and what not, and I would wonder how they could ever have been so gullible and foolish. And now I see that the only difference between then and now is that we just like to make our superstitions prettier than they did.

  25. TSR (Tropical Storm Risk) released “TSR lowers its forecast and predicts Atlantic hurricane activity in 2017 will be about 30% below the long-term average.” in April. Their forecast is at their web page Just for comparison purposes…

  26. “with 15 named storms, including 7 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes.” And how many made landfall? Each year they predict a high number of storms will strike the US, and each year their predictions fail more people refuse to listen to them. Instead, perhaps, just maybe, they should concentrate on tracking storms WHEN they develop and work on having a much more successful rate for telling people where hurricanes will ACTUALLY make landfall. Ya know? Instead of trying to scare people months before hurricanes actually, ya know, start forming.

  27. I think it is a good idea to look at the high latitude storm patterns. Tropical storms are just another way the atmosphere attempts to equalize the differences between the tropics and the polar regions. Thus far, the northern hemisphere has had a very active storm pattern. Mid to spring negative AOs helped induce unseasonably cold weather across Europe and Central Asia. Even North America has seen several bouts of storms and heavy snow-fall as late as May. If this continues into summer, and El Nino develops (which I think it will), NOAA is going to bust its Hurricane forecast.

  28. Isn’t a 45% chance of an above-normal *anything* the same as saying there is a 55% chance of a normal-or-below *anything*?
    Or is my engineer brain failing to grasp the deeper subtleties of scientifical handling of simple subtraction that require a minority probabilityto be reported as the likely case if it has the effect of scaring people into doing what you want?

  29. They’ve said this every year for the last 4 years and have been wrong every time.
    However, they eventually will be right, and all the liberals will then rejoice in their scientific acumen, and claim that this is irrefutable proof of global warming.

  30. Wikipedia has Atlantic hurricane season since 1950. I put these data, through 2016, into a stats program.
    “Forecasters predict a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms.”
    Of these seasons, 45% have had from 11 to 17 named storms. Median is 11.
    From “2 to 4 major hurricanes” happens for 50% of these seasons. Median is 2.
    IOW, this will be a quite average year. Nothing out of the norm. Do be prepared – flashlights, water, and other provisions.
    Per Al Dork, we are supposed to be getting more major hurricanes. The Pearson “r” correlation between Year and # Major Hurricanes should be “positive,” i.e., a statistically significant result greater than zero, approaching 1. I get -0.07, p = 0.58.

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