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Storm Season 2003 Expected To Be Active
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Posted by:Apr 5th 2003, 04:06:06 pm
Fig Tree News TeamApril 05, 2003 - 11:48
Hurricane Season Expected To Be Beefier Than In 2002

Eight tropical storms expected to reach 74 mph hurricane strength, and three of the hurricanes should become "major" storms with winds of 111 mph or faster.

PARADISE ISLAND, The Bahamas —The 2003 hurricane season should produce more storms with steady winds of 74 mph or more than last year, hurricane researcher Chris Landsea told attendees at the 7th annual Bahamas Weather Conference on Friday.

Landsea is part of the team led by William Gray of Colorado State University, which produces outlooks for coming hurricane seasons.

During the season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, 12 tropical storms should form over the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea or Gulf of Mexico, Landsea said. Of these, eight should reach 74 mph hurricane strength, and three of the hurricanes should become "major" storms with winds of 111 mph or faster.

The 2002 season revved up a dozen named storms, but just four managed to reach hurricane intensity. Two of these — Isidore and Lili — grew into major hurricanes. Lili crashed into the Louisiana coast in early October with winds of 100 mph. (Related: 2002 season names, details)

The latest numbers are the same that Gray and his team forecast last December. An average season spawns 10 tropical storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.

Landsea, who is with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Hurricane Research Division in Miami, told the conference that an El Niño, which began last year, should be over by this summer, although some forecasting models predict that it will come back to life.

Other models predict a shift to the opposite of El Niño, called La Niña. (Resources: El Niño and La Niña)

El Niño refers to a pattern of Pacific Ocean temperatures and associated weather changes felt around the globe. These include a strengthening of west-to-east winds across the Caribbean Sea and tropical Atlantic Ocean, that tend to weaken or kill hurricanes. La Niña years tend to encourage slightly more hurricanes than "neutral" years, which is what Gray's team expects this hurricane season.

How successful have Gray and his team been?

Landsea said forecasts made in December for the upcoming year "have shown no skill." In other words, they haven't been any better than predicting an average number of storms, or tossing a coin.

Forecasts made in June have done much better, he said.

Instead of talking about the sometimes-complicated statistical methods of ranking forecasts, Landsea said that if the forecasters were a football team, in 20 years of forecasting they have "won" 10 years, "lost" three times, and "tied" six times. "That kind of record would get an NFL team into the playoffs, but not into the Super Bowl."

He said the April forecasts haven't been produced long enough for a meaningful won-loss-tied record.

By Jack Williams,

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