2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook Released on May 25, 2017, Predicting 11 to 17 Named Storms

The Atlantic hurricane season (including the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico) runs from June 1 to November 30, with August to October the usual period of peak activity.   On May 25, 2017, the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its outlook for the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season.   The news release on the forecast is available online at http://www.noaa.gov/media-release/above-normal-atlantic-hurricane-season-is-most-likely-year.  The full forecast report is available online at http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/outlooks/hurricane.shtml.

The outlook is a collaboration of the Climate Prediction Center, the National Hurricane Center, and the Hurricane Research Division, all within NOAA.

According to the news release, forecasters predict a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 35 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season.  The outlook also estimated a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).  On average from 1966 through 2009, the Atlantic basin has averaged 11 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, with two major hurricanes, according to the National Hurricane Center’s “Tropical Cyclone Climatology” Web page, http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/climo/.  One named storm already occurred in 2017: Tropical Storm Arlene, in April.

NOAA’s full outlook report makes the following cautions about predicted storm numbers: The outlook is “a general guide to the expected overall nature of the upcoming hurricane season; [the outlook] is not a seasonal hurricane landfall forecast, and it does not predict levels of activity for any particular region.   Hurricane disasters can occur whether the season is active or relatively quiet.   It only takes one hurricane (or tropical storm) to cause a disaster.  Residents, businesses, and government agencies of coastal and near-coastal regions are urged to prepare for every hurricane season regardless of this, or any other, seasonal outlook.”

During the season, reports on individual storms as they occur will be available at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/?atlc.  When storms are completed, reports on individual 2016 storms (including tracks) will be available online at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/data/tcr/index.php?season=2017&basin=atl.

National Hurricane Center averages for the Atlantic season for the period 1981-2010 are 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. Here are the numbers for the past five years:
2016 – 15 named storms, 4 of which became hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes;
2015 – 11 named storms, 4 of which became hurricanes, including 2 major hurricanes;
2014 – 8 named storms, 6 of which became hurricanes, including 2 major hurricanes;
2013 – 13 named storms, 2 of which became hurricanes;
2012 – 19 named storms, 10 of which became hurricanes, including 1 major hurricane.

For Water Central News Grouper posts reviewing recent Atlantic tropical storm seasons, please see the following links: 2016; 2015; 2014; 2013; 2012.

Also on May 27, 2016, NOAA issued its outlook for the Eastern Pacific and Central Pacific basins.  That report is available online at http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/Epac_hurr/Epac_hurricane.html.  For both basins, NOAA estimates an 80-percent chance of a near- or above-normal season.  The eastern Pacific outlook calls for a 70-percent probability of 14 to 20 named storms (6 to 11 hurricanes, including 3 to 7 major hurricanes). The central Pacific outlook calls for a 70-percent probability of 5 to 8 tropical cyclones (tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes).

Hurricane tracks 2016National Hurricane Center’s graph of the tracks of Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes in 2016, accessed at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/data/tcr/index.php?season=2016&basin=atl.

Chesapeake Bay Submerged Aquatic Vegetation Increased Eight Percent in 2016, According to Bay Program and VIMS Annual Survey Results Released in April 2017

In late April 2017, the Chesapeake Bay Program and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) reported that the acreage of submerged aquatic vegetation (SAVs) in the Bay (also called “underwater grasses” or “Bay grasses”) reached 97,433 acres in 2016, an increase of eight percent from 2015.  This continued a string of annual increases since 2012; for example, the increase from 2014 to 2015 was 21 percent.

The 2016 Baywide coverage of SAVs was the largest in the history of the annual aerial survey, which began in 1984.

According to the Bay Program’s news release, “Experts attribute the rise in underwater grass abundance to a strong increase in the tidal freshwater and moderately salty regions of the Bay, with Widgeon Grass in particular expanding in the latter region.  However, because widgeon grass is a “boom and bust” species—its abundance can rise and fall from year to year—a widgeon-dominant spike is not guaranteed to persist in future seasons.”

SAV chart

Chart of Chesapeake Bay submerged aquatic vegetation (SAVs) from 1984 to 2016, based on the annual aerial survey by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science.  Graph from More than 97,000 acres of underwater grasses recorded in Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Bay Program News, 4/27/17.

More than 97,000 acres of underwater grasses recorded in Chesapeake Bay, Chesapeake Bay Program News, 4/27/17.
Survey: another good year for Bay’s underwater grasses, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, 4/26/17.

Some news accounts on the 2017 survey:
Underwater grasses up 8%; acreage is highest in decades, Bay Journal, 4/27/17.
VIMS: Chesapeake Bay sees another record year in underwater grass abundance, Daily Press, 4/27/17.

For more information on Chesapeake Bay submerged aquatic vegetation:
Chesapeake Bay Program/Chesapeake STAT, “Submerged Aquatic Vegetation (SAV),” online at http://www.chesapeakeprogress.com/abundant-life/vital-habitats/sav (as of 5/25/17).

Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS), “SAV in Chesapeake Bay and Coastal Bays,” online at http://web.vims.edu/bio/sav/index.html (as of 5/25/17).

VIMS, “SAV Coverage in Chesapeake Bay 2016,” online at https://infogr.am/copy_sav_area_by_salinity_zone (as of 5/25/17).  This site has interactive charts on Bay SAV by salinity zone in 2016.

Virginia Safe Boating Information Sources for National Safe Boating Week, May 20-26, 2017

The 2017 National Safe Boating Week runs May 20-26.  Information on the week from the National Safe Boating Council is available online at http://www.safeboatingcouncil.org/.

The National Weather Service, in cooperation with the National Safe Boating Council, offers audio, video, and text information on specific topics for each day of the 2017 week (such as “Distress Beacons” for Sunday May 20 and “Fire Extinguishers” for Wednesday May 24), online at http://www.nws.noaa.gov/om/marine/safeboating/week.shtml,

In Virginia, the Department of Game and Inland Fisheries manages boating-safety regulations and education; that agency has information online at http://www.dgif.virginia.gov/boating/.  The Virginia Marine Police, part of the Virginia Marine Resources Commission, is also in involved in enforcement of laws concerning safe boating; information about the Marine Police is available online at http://www.mrc.virginia.gov/MP/leoverview.shtm.

U.S. Coast Guard boating-safety information is available online at http://www.uscgboating.org/.

For four quick audio takes on boating safety, have a listen to the following Virginia Water Radio episodes (click on the episode number/week):
Episode 270, 6-15-15 (4 minutes/20 seconds), focusing on Operation Dry Water and boating under the influence;
Episode 214, 5-19-14 (3 minutes/22 seconds), with a music-based approach and emphasizing the importance of life jackets to mark Safe Boating Week 2014;
Episode 111, 5-21-12 (3 minutes/12 seconds), focusing again on the importance of life jackets to mark Safe Boating Week 2012, and featuring a National Safe Boating Council/National Weather Service audio Public Service Announcement; and
Episode 131, 10-8-12 (3 minutes/10 seconds), focusing on an important but sometimes overlooked boating issue: safety around docks.

Boats-Dock Claytor Lake SP Marine Sep23 2012

Individual 401 Water-quality Certification Permits would NOT be Required in Virginia for Proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley Natural Gas Pipeline Projects, according to Va. DEQ on May 24, 2017; Agency Acknowledges Incorrect Announcement of April 6, 2017

On May 24, 2017, the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) acknowledged that the agency will not require individual permits for stream and wetland impacts of the proposed Atlantic Coast and Mountain Valley pipelines, should the projects be approved (both proposed projects are under review (as of May 2017) by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC).  Instead,  the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers would be responsible for determining whether such impacts required individual permits or could be authorized under the Clean Water Act Nationwide Permit 12 process, a general permit that would cover all of a project’s wetland and stream crossings.

The agency had announced on April 7, 2017, the it would require individual state permits for each stream/wetland crossing in addition to the Corps’ process, but the agency asserted on May 24 that the April announcement was an error resulting from miscommunication between the agency’s technical staff and public affairs staff.

The DEQ said in May that it still intends to require certifications–known as 401 certifications after the relevant section of the federal Clean Water Act–of the potential water impacts of each project as a whole, and that it will hold public hearings on that process.  That process would focus on water impacts beyond the jurisdiction of the Corps, according to news reports on May 24-25, 2017.

For more information on the federal Clean Water Act’s required Section 401 state certification process, see “401 Certification,” Association of State Wetland Managers, online at https://www.aswm.org/wetland-programs/regulation/401-certification.


Virginia DEQ denies backpedaling on pipeline water-crossing reviews, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 5/24/17.
DEQ acknowledges error, clarifies approach to review of pipelines, Roanoke Times, 5/24/17.
As gas pipelines roil Virginia governor’s race, regulators backtrack on their role, Washington Post, 5/25/17.
A Brain-Frying Foray into the Regulatory Maze, Bacon’s Rebellion, 4/19/17 [discussing differences between “nationwide” and “individual” permits under the federal Clean Water Act, relating to potential stream/wetland impacts of the proposed natural gas pipelines].
DEQ will require additional individual 401 certifications for natural gas transmission pipeline projects, Virginia Department of Environmental Quality News Release, 4/6/17.
Virginia pipelines will be subject to Department of Environment Quality water-quality review, Richmond Times-Dispatch, 4/6/17.
DEQ to require pipeline projects to secure state water quality certification, Roanoke Times, 4/6/17.
What’s Next for the Pipeline Controversies?, Bacon’s Rebellion, 4/14/17.

For more details about natural gas developments in Virginia, please see the Water Central News Grouper post, Natural Gas Drilling and Transport in Virginia under Close Scrutiny in 2014-17.

Chesapeake Bay Blue Crab Survey for Winter 2017 Shows 31-percent Increase in Spawning Females over 2016, But Declines in Juveniles and Total Population

On April 19, 2017, the Virginia Marine Resources Commission (VMRC), the Maryland Department of Natural Resources (Md. DNR), and the Virginia Institute of Marine Science (VIMS) reported the results of the latest winter dredge survey of Blue Crab populations in the Chesapeake Bay.  Since 1990, the survey has been conducted each year from December to March by VIMS and the Md. DNR.  The report for the 2016-17 survey showed increases over the previous year in spawning females but decreases in the number of juveniles and in the total population.  Despite the decreases, the population was the 11th highest recorded.   Survey results since 2008 are available online at http://www.vims.edu/research/units/programs/bc_winter_dredge/results/index3.php.

Following is an excerpt from the VMRC’s April 19, 2017, news release on the 2016-17 survey (see Sources, below, for the Internet link to the news release PDF):

“The Virginia Marine Resources Commission today released the results of the 2017 blue crab winter dredge survey, which shows a 31-percent increase in adult female crabs and forecasts another year of improved harvests.

“This is the highest level of adult, spawning age females recorded in the 28-year history of the Bay-wide crab winter dredge survey. …The results of the 2017 winter dredge survey show the total population of blue crabs in the Chesapeake Bay fell a bit, by 18 percent, due to a decline in the number of juvenile crabs, but remains at the 11th highest level ever recorded by the winter dredge survey.   This year’s female spawning stock increased by 31 percent, from 194 million to 254 million crabs, which surpassed the scientifically recommended target of 215 million spawning female crabs and remains well above the minimum safe threshold of 70 million crabs.  Spawning age female crabs are the cornerstone to maintaining a vibrant crab stock, and depend on conservative and cooperative fishery management efforts among the Bay jurisdictions.

“The adult male crab stock fell by 16 percent, from 91 million to a still-substantial 76 million.  However, the juvenile abundance plummeted by 54 percent, from 271 million to 125 million, which is the fourth lowest level on record.

“This was unfortunate but not unprecedented. Optimal spawning conditions do not occur every year.  Successful crab reproduction naturally fluctuates and can be affected by wind, currents, storms, temperature, and cannibalism. In recent years, post-reproduction predation events and environmental factors have caused at times dramatic downturns in crab stock abundance. For example, the level of juveniles fell from 581 million in 2012 to a mere 111 million in 2013.

“This reproductive variability highlights the need for fishery managers to continue to enhance resilience of the stock through adaptive management to compensate for unusual or extreme environmental conditions and the resulting impacts on reproductive success….

“A Bay-wide 10-percent crab harvest reduction was enacted in 2014 by VMRC, Maryland, and the Potomac River Fisheries Commission to combat low overall crab abundance and to boost a dangerously depleted female spawning stock.   Bay fishery managers have since refined their management regimen to focus on conserving juvenile crabs as well as spawning age female crabs. Each year’s juveniles become the next year’s spawning stock.  Adjusting catch regulations to conserve more of today’s juveniles from harvest when they reach market size in the fall and emerge in the spring after overwintering in the water bottom increases the likelihood they will survive to spawn another generation of abundant crabs in the summer. …

“The Bay-wide commercial harvest increased by 20 percent last year, from 50 million pounds to 60 million pounds, and remains at sustainable levels.  Since 2014, the Bay-wide commercial crab harvest has jumped 71 percent while overall crab abundance has increased by 53 percent.  The current low level of juvenile crabs appears to preclude the reopening of the winter crab dredge fishery, which has remained closed since 2008.

“The annual Bay-wide Winter Dredge Survey is the primary assessment of the Bay’s blue crab population, and has been conducted annually by the Virginia Institute of Marine Science and Maryland’s Department of Natural Resources since 1990.  The survey employs crab dredges to sample blue crabs at 1,500 sites throughout the Chesapeake Bay from December through March.  Sampling during winter when blue crabs are usually buried in the mud and stationary, allows scientists to develop, with good precision, estimates of the number of crabs present in the Bay.  The Chesapeake Bay Stock Assessment Committee (CBSAC), a subcommittee of the Sustainable Fisheries Goal Implementation Team,is reviewing the new survey results and will release their full analysis of the results in the 2017 Blue Crab Advisory Report this summer.  The annual advisory report is used by managers as they review and update fishery regulations. …”

Following are the lowest and highest estimates of key parts of the Bay crab population since 1990:
Total (both sexes and all ages) – low of 251 million in 2007; high of 852 million in 1993.
Spawning-age females – low of 53 million in 1999; high of 254 million in 2017.
Juvenile-age (both sexes): low of 105 million in 1992; high of 581 million in 2012.

A table of all the results since 1990 is available in the VMRC’s April 19, 2016, news release.

Scientific Survey Shows Promising Blue Crab Stock Abundance with Boost to Adult Females (PDF), Virginia Marine Resources Commission News Release, 4/19/17.
Scientific survey shows highest-ever level of spawning-age female crabs, Virginia Institute of Marine Science News Release, 4/19/17.

Some news accounts on the winter 2016-17 survey are the following:
Survey finds Bay crab population strong, with record number of females, Bay Journal, 4/19/17.
The Chesapeake Bay was less crabby last winter, survey says, Virginian-Pilot, 4/19/17.

For previous News Grouper items on the Blue Crab winter dredge survey, please see this link: https://vawatercentralnewsgrouper.wordpress.com/?s=blue+crab+winter+dredge+survey.

Virginia Water-related Government Meetings for May 25-June 7, 2017

For more information, click on underlined meeting dates. Click here for the Commonwealth Calendar listing of all government meetings open to the public, and here for the Virginia Regulatory Town Hall listing of all government meetings of a regulatory nature.

For other, non-governmental, events, please see the Water Central News Grouper post, Quick Guide to Virginia Water-related Events.


5/25/17, 9 a.m.:  Board of Agriculture and Consumer Services.  At the Patrick Henry Building, 1111 East Broad Street in Richmond.

5/31/17, 9 a.m.: Department of Health’s Sewage Handling and Disposal Appeals Review Board.  At the Perimeter Center, Training Room 1A, 9960 Mayland Drive in Richmond.

6/1/17, 11 a.m.: Board for Architects, Professional Engineers, Land Surveyors, Certified Interior Designers, and Landscape Architects/Regulatory Review Committee.  At the Department of Professional and Occupational Regulation, 9960 Mayland Drive in Richmond.

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For meetings of legislative committees and commissions, see http://lis.virginia.gov/cgi-bin/legp604.exe?171+oth+MTG.  Links to information about General Assembly commissions, councils, and special interim committees coordinated by the Division of Legislative Services are available online at http://dls.virginia.gov/commissions.html.

None during this period.

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For more information about TMDLs in Virginia, click here for the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality TMDL Web site; click on “Public Notices” in the menu to the left to access upcoming meetings and public-comment periods.  A search tool to find approved TMDL reports is available at http://www.deq.virginia.gov/Programs/Water/WaterQualityInformationTMDLs/TMDL/TMDLDevelopment/ApprovedTMDLReports.aspx.

5/25/17, 6 p.m., on the TMDL implementation plan for aquatic life and bacterial impairments in Butcher Fork, North Fork Powell River, South Fork Powell River, Powell River, and other Powell River tributaries, located in the Upper Tennessee River basin in Lee and Wise Counties.  At Pennington Gap Community Center, 41670 West Morgan Avenue in Pennington Gap (Lee County).  This is meeting of the Residential Working Group for this TMDL and is a duplicate of the 5/23/17 meeting that was held in Big Stone Gap.

5/25/17, 1 p.m., on the TMDL implementation plan for bacterial impairments in Upper Goose Creek, Cromwells Run, and Little River Watersheds, located in the Potomac River basin in Fauquier County.  At Tri County Feeds, 7408 John Marshall Highway in Marshall.

6/5/17, 6 p.m., on the TMDL study of aquatic life (dissolved oxygen) and bacterial impairments in the Rudee Inlet watershed (including Lake Rudee, Lake Wesley, and Owl Creek, located in the Atlantic Ocean basin in the City of Virginia Beach.  At W.T. Cooke Elementary, 1501 Mediterranean Avenue in Virginia Beach.

6/7/17, 1 p.m., on the TMDL study of aquatic life (benthic) impairments in Accotink Creek and Long Branch, located in the Potomac River basin in Fairfax County.  At Richard Byrd Library, 7250 Commerce Street in Springfield.

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(topics listed alphabetically)

Coastal Zone Management
5/31/17, 1 p.m.: Virginia Coastal Zone Management Policies Advisory Group.  At the College of William and Mary Law School, 613 South Henry Street in Williamsburg.  This group is advising the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality on the development by the Virginia Coastal Policy Center (located at the College of William and Mary; online at http://law.wm.edu/academics/programs/jd/electives/clinics/vacoastal/index.php) of documents for potential coastal zone management program change submissions.

Resource Management Mapping and Planning
5/25/17, 10 a.m.: Virginia Geographic Information Network (VGIN) Advisory Board.  At the Department of Conservation and Recreation, 600 East Main Street in Richmond.  VGIN was established by the Virginia General Assembly in 1997 to help support the creation, development, and use of geographic information and related technology for state and local government agencies, colleges and universities, and other Commonwealth users of maps and geographic information.  It’s coordinated by the Virginia Information Technologies Agency (VITA).  More information is available online at http://www.vita.virginia.gov/isp/default.aspx?id=8482.

Virginia Water Resources Research Center’s Student Grant Award Winners for 2017-18

From March to May 2017, the Virginia Water Resources Research Water Center accepted and reviewed proposals in its Competitive Grants Program for supporting students in Virginia studying water resources.  Under the program, the Water Center awards grants of up to $5000 to support research by students at Virginia colleges or universities. This year’s grants, which are for the period June 1, 2017, to May 31, 2018, were awarded to the following students and projects:

Stephanie Houston, Ph.D. student in the Department of Biological Systems Engineering at Virginia Tech – “A renewable filtration system for the removal and reuse of pollutants from retention ponds.”

Mary Lofton, Ph.D. student in the Department of Biological Sciences at Virginia Tech –  “Simulating storms to predict phytoplankton community responses to future climate change: a whole-ecosystem mixing experiment.”

Brendan Player, M.S. student in the Department of Environmental Science at Christopher Newport University – “Nutrient uptake in degraded and restored sections of urban streams across project age gradients.”

More information about this grant program is available online at http://www.vwrrc.vt.edu/grant-opportunities/competitive-grants/.