We’re 30 days from the start of the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season, and as such, we find ourselves once again looking forward into an abyss of uncertainty, armed with the output of as many scientific forecasts as our tax dollars can buy (and, if you’ve been reading the news, our tax dollars are going towards these less and less).
There’s a lot of psychology that plagues hurricane forecasts. If someone claims it’s going to be an active season, the general public immediately, intuitively interprets that to mean that they should expect Hurricane Sandy’s younger sister to knock on someone’s door this summer. Unfortunately, while long-range hurricane forecasting has improved in terms of predicting overall activity, and forecasts for individual, active cyclones has improved in accuracy, there is still no one that would place a sizable bet on where exactly a hurricane will or won’t make landfall.
What we do know is that ocean temperatures are above average this year, that El Niño (the pattern that usually dampens cyclone activity) will not play a major role, and that no one so far has said that we will have an average or below average year, as we did in 2006 and 2007.
The most accurate forecast over the past several years has been that of Colorado State University, which this year is predicting 9 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes. Four major hurricanes is twice the historical average (2). Please remember that Sandy never even reached this strength.
Overall, they are placing the chance of a major hurricane making landfall somewhere along the U.S. eastern seaboard at 72%. Said another way, there’s a 72% chance that 1 of those 4 major hurricanes makes landfall. Of course, whether that landfall occurs near a metropolitan area or along a desolate stretch of terrain makes a great difference.
More detail can be found on the project website at Colorado State: http://tropical.atmos.colostate.edu/forecasts/
Additional commentary of merit from around the web: