The Science Behind Atlantic Hurricanes and Seasonal Hurricane Predictions By Dr.

Gerry Bell Head of NOAA’s Seasonal Hurricane Outlooks Climate Prediction Center Camp Springs, MD public affairs: carmeyia.gillis@noaa.gov (301) 763-8000 x 7163

Background
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June through November. However, most of the activity occurs during August-October. This is called the peak of the hurricane season. Fortunately, this is the time when the climate control is very strong and…also very predictable. So, when we make seasonal hurricane forecasts, they are primarily reflecting the expected activity during August-October.

Main tropical storm and hurricane formation region

Outline
1. Interpreting NHC hurricane forecasts 2. NOAA’s seasonal hurricane outlooks 3. Recipe for hurricane formation 4. Measuring seasonal activity 5. Recipe for an active hurricane season 6. Conditions during 2005 7. Climate patterns controlling hurricane extremes 8. Summary

Interpretation of the Prediction Cone

It is incorrect to show only the black line as the forecast because it is NOT the forecast. The white cone is the forecast. The hurricane is forecast to be somewhere in the white cone area.

NOAA’s Seasonal Hurricane Outlooks
•Began in August 1998 •Issued in mid-to-late May and early August •Seasonal Forecasts are highly confident 2 August 2005 Outlook Observed Chance Above Normal 95-100% Tropical Storms 18-21 22 Hurricanes 9-11 12 Major Hurricanes 5-7 6 BUT, Less confidence with seasonal landfalling forecasts. A lot of work still needs to be done in this area.

Sea Surface Temperatures (F)
81 86 84

Departures from Normal (F)

3

2

..

E c o ffe ts f

V rtic l W dS e r (V e a in h a

z)

o T p a Cc ns n ro ic l y lo e

UP R E E W D P E -L V L IN S

EYE

Neal Dorst/Stan Goldenberg Hurricane Research Division HRD AOML/NOAA

L WR E E W D O E -L V L IN S

W A S E R= EK HA

F V RBE AOAL

SRN T O G S E R= HA

U AOAL NF V R B E

h clou s igh d

lowclou s d

Measuring Seasonal Activity

ACE Index
•Classifying Hurricane Seasons is Challenging # TS, #H, # MH, # landfalling storms, etc. •NOAA’s ACE index accounts for the combined intensity, numbers, and duration of named storms. •The Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) Index: An Energy index defined as sum of squares of 6-hourly maximum sustained wind speed for all systems while at least tropical storm strength. •ACE index is an excellent measure of seasonal activity, and is also highly predictable

•Alternating 20-30 year periods of active / inactive seasons •Nine of last 11 years have been active compared to only 3 active years during 1970-1994 (25 years). •We are now 11 years into an active hurricane era.

2005

Recipe for an Active Hurricane Season?

Active/ inactive seasons and decades result from a coherent set of atmospheric and oceanic conditions. They are not random events. The set of conditions that determine whether or not hurricanes will form is strongly controlled by two dominant climate phenomena.

Conditions Associated with Active Hurricane Seasons
August-October
Higher Pressure Aloft Makes easterly winds over Caribbean instead of westerlies Low Vertical Wind Shear Warmer SSTs Lower Surface Pressure Favorable mid level jet stream Weaker easterly trade Winds in lower atmosphere

Tropical storms and hurricanes form as disturbances move westward from Africa into the low-shear, warm water environment (red area) of the tropical Atlantic.

Conditions During 2005

Courtesy of Unisys Weather

Conditions During Record Activity: 15 June-31 July
Vertical Wind Shear Departures from Normal (Shaded) Extremely low vertical wind shear typical of September Main Development Region Air Pressure Departures from Normal (35,000 ft)

Symmetry between Northern and Southern hemispheres indicates link to suppressed convection near date line

Conditions During 15 August-30 September
Vertical Wind Shear Departures from Normal (Shaded) Air Pressure at 35,000 feet (Contours)

H

L H

Very low wind shear. Ridge remains over SE U.S. Major hurricanes form in Gulf of Mexico where wind shear is almost zero.

Landfalling Hurricanes
2 to 3 times more U.S. landfalling hurricanes during active seasons than inactive seasons.

Tracks of systems that became major hurricanes after forming in Tropical Atlantic or Caribbean Sea
Active 24-Year Period 1955-1970, 1995-2002 Inactive 24-Year Period 1971-1994

MDR

67 Major Hurricanes

27 Major Hurricanes

The U.S. averages 2-3 hurricane strikes in above-normal seasons, compared to just one in below-normal seasons.

U.S. Landfalling Named Storms 2002-2005 30 Number 20 10 0
Total Gulf Coast East Coast

U.S. Landfalling Hurricanes 2002-2005 15 Number 10 5 0
Total Gulf Coast East Coast

The ongoing active hurricane era means high levels of tropical storm and hurricane landfalls for many years to come. Tropical climate patterns are similar to those seen during the 1950s-1960s. They are very different than during 1970-1994 when fewer hurricanes formed, and even fewer affected the United States.

Coastal Population

• The Bureau of Census considers 87 million people to be Atlantic and Gulf coast residents. That's nearly 30 percent of the US population threatened by Atlantic hurricane season.

Florida Coastal Population

MH Katrina- Hit as Cat. 4 (145 mph winds) August 29th 2005

Eye is 30 miles across Hurricane winds extend 125 miles from center New Orleans and Biloxi both in Eye Wall
Biloxi

New Orleans

Hurricanes are Not Just a Coastal Event

Leading cause of death is from inland flooding.

Climate Patterns Controlling Hurricane Activity

Hurricane seasons are largely controlled by recurring rainfall patterns along the equator, which are linked to two dominant climate phenomena: 1. The El Niño/ Southern Oscillation (El Niño and La Niña) 2. 20-30 year (multi-decadal) cycles in monsoonal rains over western Africa and the Amazon Basin. These monsoons influence the entire set of conditions that control seasonal hurricane activity. They are the dominant cause of the alternating 20-30 year periods of active/ inactive hurricane seasons. (Bell and Chelliah, In Press Journal of Climate) •NOAA’s seasonal hurricane outlooks result from analysis and prediction of these two climate phenomena.

El Niño/ La Niña Cycle
Pacific Ocean Temperatures, Rainfall, Winds at 35,000 feet El Nino: Fewer Atlantic Hurricanes L
High Shear

H
Warm & Wet Warm & Wet

L

H

La Niña: More Atlantic Hurricanes H
Low Shear
Weaker Tropical Easterly Jet L

H
Stronger Easterly Trades

Cool and Cool and DryL Dry

Tropical 20-30 Year Signal Active Atlantic Hurricane Phase
Surface Temperatures
Warm Warm
cco l oo ol

warm warm Warm Warm cool cool

Warm Warm

Precipitation
Wette Wette rr

Drie Drie rr

Drie Drie rr

Monsoonal rainfall fluctuations with 20-30 year cycles

Observed 20-30 Year Cycles

Winds and Air Pressure at 35,000 feet Difference Between 1995-2003 and 1971-1994
Observed Patterns Linked to 20-30 year cycles

H H

H H

Differences between active and inactive periods is caused by anomalous tropical convection with 20-30 year cycles (Bell and Chelliah, 2005, J. Climate)

Multi-Decadal Signal in Atlantic Sea-Surface Temperatures
Tropical Atlantic Temperatures (Red)

Warmer Atlantic waters since 1995 are very favorable for hurricane formation. Associated with weaker easterly trade winds.

Atlantic Sea Surface Temperature Departures (oC)

1870

1900

1930

1970

1995

Strong multi-decadal fluctuations in Atlantic temperatures dating back to the 1870’s.

Summary
1. We are in an active hurricane era that began in 1995. This is due to naturally occurring 20-30 year cycles in tropical monsoon rainfall.

It is NOT greenhouse warming 2. A major hurricane (cat. 3-4-5) does major damage regardless of strength. Therefore, a weakening hurricane should not be conveyed to the public as having significantly weaker impacts. This happened during hurricane Katrina.

Summary: cont.
2. We can expect high levels of hurricanes and landfalling hurricanes for many years to come (10-20 years). We have been saying this since 1998. 3. This is quite different than was seen during 1970-1994, when only 3 in 25 seasons were above normal and significantly fewer hurricanes struck the United States. 4. Tropical climate patterns controlling seasonal hurricane activity are very predictable. Therefore, seasonal activity is predictable. 5. Hurricane preparedness and hurricane “smarts” are the most important things we can do as a society to minimize impacts if a tropical storm or hurricane strikes.