Chimp Challenges Experts For 2010 Hurricane Season Forecast

Hurricane Andrew Sequence Aug 23, 24, 25, 1992

"Dr. James Hansimian"

2010 Hurricane Season Forecast: Let us begin with the 2010 hurricane season prognastication of Dr. James Hansimian(video).   He is predicting 6 to 8 hurricanes for the 2010 season.  Never heard of him?  You probably will.  You see, he is a chimpanzee whom the National Center for Public Policy Research has put on the record in an effort to emphasize how little humans really know about the climate.  They claim that NOAA has been “wrong three out of the last 4 years and 7 of the last 11.”  They say they are not hiring “Dr. Hansimian” to ridicule  the effort and dedication of climate and hurricane specialists but instead to highlight that, even with the greatest minds, competence, tools and methodology, humans do not have a complete understanding of the climate.  They say that they will make another video in December 2010 of Dr. Hansimian and determine who was more correct.  In the meantime, let us look what some of the leading authorities have to say. 

Hurricane Headlines Used to Contain Facts, Not Sensational Hyperbole

Now, I already had a pretty good idea of what the National Hurricane Center would say.  What is amazing to me though is the media coverage.  I looked at the headline from USA Today and it says, Fierce Hurricane Season Predicted.   CNN had a story about the exact same subject but its link was a more subdued, “Hurricane Season Could be Above Average.”   Nevertheless, the actual headline to the story was a more menacing, “Hurricane Season Could be ‘Active’ or “Extremely Active.'”  AFP via Yahoo News was even more dramatic by trumpeting, “2010 Hurricane Season May Be Worst on Record.”   But, Reuters via Yahoo News had a little different spin as its headline read, “Government Warns of Worst Hurricane Season Since 2005.”   Fox News says, “Hurricane Season Could be Strongest Ever Say Top Meteorologists.”  I have yet to find any quote from anyone at NOAA or the NHC that verifies any  of these headlines except fo the one from CNN, which not-coincidentally is the least sensational.   Interestingly, CBS4 in South Florida took a different tact.  Instead of focusing on the threat to the United States, instead its headline was, “NHC Director Fears For Haiti This Hurricane Season.”  That one is right on the money.  A tropical cyclone for Haiti of any magnitude would not be good and they get nailed in one form or another very frequently.

Atlantic Hurricane Season Names 2005 to 2010 (In 2005 they ran out of names so went to Alpha, Beta...etc.)

So, what did was the National Hurricane Center 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast on May 27?   To begin with, the press release from the NHC had a headline that read, “NOAA Expects Busy Atlantic  Hurricane Season.”  Note that this headline lacks the hyperbole and extreme adjectives of the media.  As usual, they give themselves a wide berth by saying that there will be between 14 and 23 named storms.  That would be tropical cyclones of tropical storm force or more.  The difference between 14 and 23 is pretty large.  Eight to 14 of those storms are expected to be hurricanes with 3 to 7 becoming major hurricanes which means category 3 or greater.  For the past several years, NOAA taking some of the thunder from the NHC.  I believe they are in the process of changing the name of the NHC to the NOAA National Hurricane Center; I suppose it’s an effort to establish that its a governmental agency.  In any event, the initial quote from their press release is not from an NHC forecaster or the Director.  Instead, its from the Under-Secretary of Commerce, who said, “If this outlook holds true, this season could be one of the more active on record.”   Notice she said “If” and “could” and related it to “one of the more active” seasons.  The reason they give is warm ocean waters, no El Nino and a decadal cycle.  The last one is the most significant.  Accepted science generally has concluded that the Atlantic season goes in cycles of about 30 years in which there is great activity and, conversely, 30 years with low activity.  Since 1995, we have been in an “active era.” 

2005 Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Tracks

Now, the 2005 Atlantic Hurricane Season was the most active in recorded history.  Keep in mind that it fell in part of the current “active era” and that recorded history is limited.  The first hurricane tracked by satellite was Hurricane Camille in 1969 so prior to that, only ship reports were able to confirm hurricanes and ships kinda like to avoid storms so its possible there were several over the years that were missed.  Anyway, in 2005 there were 28 named storms with 15 hurricanes including the two notable powerful storms, Rita and Katrina.  That means, in order for the headlines of some of these media outlets to be accurate, the 2010 hurricane season would have to have 5 more named storms than the top end of the forecast and one more hurricane than the extreme forecasted.  The headlines also neglect to take into account a very important and possible caveat from the press release that could put a damper on the number of storms:

“The main uncertainty in this outlook is how much above normal the season will be. Whether or not we approach the high end of the predicted ranges depends partly on whether or not La Niña develops this summer,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “At present we are in a neutral state, but conditions are becoming increasingly favorable for La Niña to develop.”

Dr. William Gray: Making Hurricane Season Forecasts for At least 27 Years

Now, for 27 years one of the leading hurricane forecasting expert has been Dr. William Gray from Colorado State University.  Until recent years, he was about the only one who tried to make a forecast.  The NHC lately has been getting into the game and diminishing the role of Dr. Gray.  Dr. Gray is now has handed over some of the duties to Dr. Phil Klotzbach and the pair lead the efforts at Colorado State.  Back in early April, the Colorado State University  team issued their 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast and noted warm ocean temperatures and a weakening El Nino as the reason for a more active season.  However, their numbers are more pedestrian.  They suggest 15 named storms with 8 becoming hurricanes and 4 of those becoming major hurricanes.  They go a step further and say that there is a 69% probability of major hurricane striking the US which is higher than the 52% of the 20th century.   Another tropical cyclone forecasting service, Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) has 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast is somewhere in between the NHC  and  CSU with 16.3 (+/- 4.1) named storms, 8.5 (+/- 2.8) hurricanes and 4 (+/- 1.7) major hurricanes.

Atlantic Hurricane Tracks 1851-2005

On average, the number of named storms in any given year in the North Atlantic is 10 (9.6) with 6 (5.9) hurricanes and 2.3 of those becoming major hurricanes.  So, both forecast teams are predicting an above average season.  It would seem that the folks at CSU might be a looking on the low end with an eye on the El Nino not diminishing completely to neutral until after the hurricane season has started.  The NHC seems to be banking on the El Nino coming to an end sooner, or at least allowing for that possibility, thus they have the substantially larger number of storms on the high end of their range.  But, again….Dr. Gerry Bell’s words make it sound as if they think that a La Nina condition developing is a real possibility.  The two forecasts are almost identical except that the NHC gives itself a wide berth so, if by chance there are a bunch of storms, then they can say they said so.  They also can avoid making any huge revisions as the season progresses as has been done with some initial hurricane season forecasts in the past.  The truth is, it’s just a forecast.  We’re in the middle of an active 30 year cycle and so its expected to be more active.  How much more active is an academic exercise.  In the first place, it’s impossible to predict so far out any specific disturbance developing in exactly the right conditions.  Remember, you need more than just warm water to have a tropical cyclone.   Also, just because a tropical cyclone develops, it doesn’t mean that it will hit land.  A tropical cyclone’s job in nature is to transport heat and moisture from the tropical region to the polar region.  They don’t really care if there is land in the way or ocean. 

Just Because It's a Headline, Doesn't Mean that It's True

And one more thing….note that nothing was said about Global Warming in either the Colorado State University forecast or the National Hurricane Center outlook.  They do refer to a warm surface temperature anomoly, but that is about as close as you get.  And, if it were due to Global Warming or Climate Change, then it would stand to reason that there would be more tropical cyclones all around the world.  As it happens, the NHC forecasts a Below Average Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season.  Beyond that, Tropical Storm Risk (TSR) has a 2010 NW Pacific Typhoon Season Forecast that is near average.  TSR also has a forecast for the Australian region for tropical activity to be about 10% below average.  Going by the forecasts…well above average for the North Atlantic, below average for the Eastern Pacific and Australian region and about average for the NW Pacific.  Doesn’t sound like a global climate calamity, does it?  So, if the 2010 Atlantic hurricane season does have a signficant number of hurricanes, get ready for the media reports that try to tie it to Global Warming.  But, don’t believe it.  And, if the number that actually does come about is less than forecast (as was the case in 2009) then look for an explainer, which the NHC has already conveniently put out there.  See, they’re pretty smart.  If the season is slightly above average, they can say, “we said so.”  If its way above average, they can say, “we said so.”  And if the number of storms is less than the predicted range, they can say, ” we warned you about a possible La Nina.”  All the bases are covered.  That’s what a lot of guys on TV do as they can always claim victory, no matter what, when they say “Variable cloudy skies and a 50% chance of rain.” 

NAM Friday Evening Precipitation Forecast

Penn's Store in Gravel Switch, KY Since 1845

Weather Bottom Line:  I had to go to Gravel Switch Kentucky to help the folks at Kentucky’s oldest store, Penn’s Store.  Actually, it’s not just Kentucky’s oldest store, it is considered the oldest country store in America.  I am told that it began operation in 1845, though I’ve seen published reports that claim 1850.  But, I think I’ll go with the word of the Penn family.   About a month ago, when Tennessee was getting relatively sparse coverage of flooding, Kentucky got even less coverage.  Of course, South Central  Kentucky only got 11 inches of rain and parts of Tennessee got 15-20 inches so I suppose that it fits that if Tennessee got slim coverage, then Kentucky got none.  Anyway, I was helping them clean up and rid the store of a snake and so I could not post on Thursday when the NHC  Hurricane Forecast came out.  So, I’m a day late.

GFS Monday Evening Precip Outlook

I did see a few towering cumulous clouds late in the day…about the time I was playing St. Patrick and ridding the Penn’s Store of a 4 or 5 foot snake.  On our return to Louisville, there were some pretty decent wind gusts and it was much cooler, leading me to believe that there were some decent thunderstorms around, which did not surprise me.  The weak boundary will still be in the area on Friday so we will see some scattered storms again with highs in the mid 80’s.  We warm a bit over the weekend with highs in the mid to perhaps upper 80’s.  We may have an isolated t’storm on Sunday but more likely there will be scattered afternoon storms on Memorial Day.

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