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Updated: July 26, 2011 5:00 PM EDT

WSI Hurricane Forecast

Outperforming other, primary, public forecasters on named storms by 25% since 2006, Weather Services International, a Weather Channel company, predicts 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes (category 3 or greater).

These 2011 forecast numbers are above the long-term (1950-2010) averages of 12 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes and match the averages from the more active recent period (1995-2010) of 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes. The current forecast numbers are not changed from the April, May, or June forecasts.

“Most of the important drivers for tropical activity continue to indicate that an active season lies ahead of us,” said WSI Chief Meteorologist Dr. Todd Crawford.

Crawford lists these drivers as "warmer-than-normal North Atlantic water temperatures, very low surface pressures in the main development region, and no impending El Nino event."

Although WSI does not see activity reaching the historic levels of 2005 and 2010, it does expect a more impactful season in 2011 along the United States coastline.

2010 Hurricane Season: Full recap | U.S. impacts | Igor, Tomas retired

The country has been largely spared the last two years, with no hurricane landfalls since 2008, a rare occurrence.

According to WSI, the United States has not gone through a three-year period without a hurricane landfall since the 1860s! Further, 80% of all years in the historical dataset have had at least one hurricane landfall in the U.S.

Watch video: U.S. hurricane landfalls...it's been awhile

"Our recent good fortune in avoiding landfalling hurricanes is not likely to last," said Crawford.

“The lack of U.S. landfalls in 2010 was primarily due to a persistent western Atlantic trough that essentially protected the U.S. East Coast from any direct hits. We do not expect this feature to be in place this year during late summer and fall when most tropical storms occur," said Crawford.

WSI's hurricane landfall prediction model indicates increased chances of a landfall this year, particularly along the western Gulf Coast.

"This is not particularly unusual, since historically 43% of years have had multiple hurricane landfalls. The forecast numbers from our model are quite similar to those prior to the 2008 season, when Hurricanes Dolly, Gustav, and Ike impacted Louisiana and Texas."

NOAA and Colorado State Hurricane Forecasts

The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their forecast for the 2011 huricane season on May 19, 2011. Forecasters are expecting another active season with between 12 and 18 named storms, 6 to 10 hurricanes and 3 to 6 major hurricanes.

“The United States was fortunate last year. Winds steered most of the season’s tropical storms and all hurricanes away from our coastlines,” said Jane Lubchenco, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “However we can’t count on luck to get us through this season. We need to be prepared, especially with this above-normal outlook.”

NOAA cited several climate factors considered for this outlook:

-The continuing high activity era. Since 1995, the tropical multi-decadal signal has brought ocean and atmospheric conditions conducive for development in sync, leading to more active Atlantic hurricane seasons.

-Warm Atlantic Ocean water. Sea surface temperatures where storms often develop and move across the Atlantic are up to two degrees Fahrenheit warmer-than-average.

-La Nina officially dissipated, but its impacts such as reduced wind shear are expected to continue into the hurricane season.

“In addition to multiple climate factors, seasonal climate models also indicate an above-normal season is likely, and even suggest we could see activity comparable to some of the active seasons since 1995,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

In their June update, Colorado State University (CSU) also kept its 2011 hurricane season forecast steady, calling for 16 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 5 major hurricanes.

Phil Klotzbach of the CSU Tropical Meteorology Project cited that above-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic will contribute to an active season.

The total amount of storm, hurricane and major hurricane activity in 2011 is forecast to be 175 percent of average. Last year was 196 percent above average.

As always, these hurricane forecasts can give an indication of how active a season might be, but do not predict the exact details of where or if any landfalls occur.

Stu Ostro blog: Are seasonal forecasts useless?

Hurricane strike frequency (1900-2010)
Source: NHC

Our message at The Weather Channel is for you to be prepared each season, regardless of whether the forecast is for an active or inactive season.

Weather Ready: Hurricane safety tips

A classic example of this occurred in 1992. The season only produced six named storms and one subtropical storm. However, one of those named storms was Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida as a Category 5 hurricane.

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