(State College, PA - May 14, 2009) - AccuWeather.com Hurricane Center meteorologists, led by Chief Long-Range and Hurricane Forecaster Joe Bastardi, have released an expanded hurricane season forecast for 2009. The forecast builds on Bastardi's early-season forecast by calling for a reduced overall number of storms but warns that the East Coast of the U.S. could still be at risk of a major landfalling storm.
"As we predicted in our early season forecast, we're anticipating a major reduction in the number of overall storms compared to last year. Levels may be as low as 2006 or perhaps lower. However we expect three storms to deal at least tropical storm force winds to the U.S. coast, two of which could be hurricanes, and perhaps one major hurricane," Bastardi said "Despite the reduced number of storms, we still have the possibility of a major event that could stick out like a sore thumb...which could cause a lot of pain for some people. After all, if you live or have a business in an area struck by a hurricane it will feel like an active season for you, no matter what the overall numbers say!"
Bastardi points to several factors that are influencing the forecast and lowering the overall number of storms, including:
- A reverse to a weak El Niño, which is associated with decreased hurricane activity in the Atlantic, is most likely in the middle to latter part of the hurricane season. Bastardi commented that this is not the single dominant factor but works hand-in-hand with other suppressive factors.
- Higher pressure in much of the subtropical Atlantic will produce stronger easterly trade winds across northern Africa than last year. This will result in increased dust and dry air being pushed westward into the Atlantic where many tropical storms originate. The added dry air and increased wind shear will tend to inhibit hurricane formation.
- Cooler water temperatures in the deep tropical Atlantic, a typical breeding ground for hurricanes. Lower temperatures in this area can reduce hurricane activity and intensity. This may create a season in which storms are reaching intensity further north and east than last year, leading to less impact in the Caribbean areas hit hard last year.
Though the forecasted number of hurricanes is expected to be below normal, the area in which they can impact the U.S. has expanded in comparison to previous years. The larger potential area of impact could make it more difficult for businesses and government agencies to proactively prepare and allocate resources for the upcoming 2009 hurricane season. This could result in an increased financial burden on government agencies and businesses that are unprepared in the event of a landfalling hurricane.
"Our forecast last year emphasized a close congregation of tracks near the Bahamas. This year, we have the opposite of that classic development. The tracks are spread out, more in the Atlantic north of 25 degrees north latitude, roughly between Key West and the tip of Florida," Bastardi said. "Anywhere along the U.S. coast is susceptible to an impact, but the Texas coast early in the season and East Coast from Carolinas northward during the heart of the season are areas that have us worried."
Bastardi and his team have made the following revised forecasts for overall numbers and types of storms during the 2009 season. These totals are shown alongside 2008 storm totals for the sake of contrast.
Total storms 16
Major hurricanes 5
Storms that impact U.S. coast 8
Major hurricanes 0
Total storms 10
Major hurricanes 2
Storms that impact U.S. coast 3
Major hurricanes 0 to 1
Bastardi presented his full forecast at the AccuWeather.com Hurricane Summit in Houston, TX to an audience of leaders in industries most impacted by tropical weather. Further details are available to his AccuWeather.com EnergyPro® clients. To learn more about these private commercial forecasting services, visit www.AccuWeather.com/Bastardi.
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