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Topper's Blog: Hurricane Outlook,Dr. Gray,Colorado State University

10:35 PM, Apr 10, 2013   |    comments
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Hurricane Prediction

Dr. Gray and Colorado State University predicted the number of hurricanes and tropical storms in the upcoming tropical season Wednesday. They predicted eighteen named storms, eleven is average, nine hurricanes, six is average, and four major hurricanes, two to three is average. A major hurricane is defined as a category three or higher with winds 111 mph or higher. Dr. Gray, in part, based his prediction on El Nino not returning this summer or fall. El Nino is the warming of the equatorial Pacific off the coast of the South America. When we have strong or moderate El Nino during the summer the jet stream is farther south than usual inhibiting the development of tropical systems.

The 2012 Atlantic Basin Hurricane season was an active season with 19 named tropical storms, 10 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes. The 19 named systems put 2012 into tie for third most active season in recorded history. The first storm, Tropical Storm Alberto, actually formed before the season began on May 18.  The last named storm was Tropical Storm Tony that formed October 22. 

The strongest and, by far, most destructive storm of the season was Hurricane Sandy that at peak intensity was a major, Category 3 hurricane with sustained winds of 115 mph.  It caused unspeakable devastation across a wide swath of land from the Mid-Atlantic to Ohio Valley to New England. Many homes on the New Jersey coast are uninhabitable. Much like Hurricane Andrew in 1992, Hurricane Sandy proved that all it takes is one major storm to make it a memorable hurricane season. Sandy is expected to rank second behind Hurricane Katrina in terms of costliest natural disasters in U.S. history. Hurricane Andrew was the costliest natural disaster in U.S. History until Katrina in 2005.

Hurricane warnings were never issued north of the North Carolina coast for Sandy by the National Hurricane Center, NHC. Sandy was going to morph from a 'warm core' storm, a hurricane in the purest sense, to a 'cold core' storm, that would still contain 'hurricane force' winds and then some but would not technically be a hurricane and thus not requiring NHC to issue and tropical watches or warnings. We pointed this technicality out during our coverage and while the meteorology was correct, in terms of warning the public, it was a public relations nightmare. Let's face it does anyone really care a 'cold core' storm just destroyed his/her house? No. This spring the NHC has said it will now continue to issue tropical watches, advisories and warnings on cold core storms that satisfy the tropical wind parameters to avoid confusion and to really convey the danger to residents in the path of a storm.