(WAFB) - Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) indicate an increased potential for an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season in an updated outlook released on Thursday.
The forecast now calls for 10-17 named storms, 5-9 hurricanes, and 2-4 major (category 3-5) hurricanes. The odds of an above-normal season are now placed at 45%, an increase from the May outlook which placed those odds around 30%.
The primary factor driving the increased forecast numbers is the dissipation of El Niño in the Pacific. El Niño events represent a warming of the ocean in the equatorial Pacific and typically lead to increased wind shear in the Atlantic, a factor which typically inhibits tropical development. Lower wind shear in the Atlantic would tend to favor the development of more tropical storms and hurricanes.
It is important to note, the NOAA forecasts do not provide any information on potential landfall locations. In fact, we have seen seasons with many storms and few landfalls, while others have produced few storms, but significant impacts. The best example of the latter scenario in our part of the world is the 1992 hurricane season. Only seven named storms formed that year, but the first of those was Andrew, which made landfall as a Category 5 hurricane in south Florida and a Category 3 hurricane in south Louisiana. In other words, it only takes one.
Historically, late August through early October is the peak time for landfalls and impacts along the Louisiana coastline. Since 1900, two-thirds of Louisiana’s tropical cyclone impacts have occurred during August and September, with September being the clear front-runner for tropical storm and hurricane hits.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs through November 30, but activity typically trails off significantly for south Louisiana beyond early-mid October.