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 27, 2016, the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its outlook for the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season. The news release on the forecast is available online at http://www.noaa.gov/near-normal-atlantic-hurricane-season-most-likely-year. The full forecast report is available online at http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/outlooks/hurricane.shtml.
According to the news release, “forecast uncertainty in the climate signals that influence the formation of Atlantic storms make predicting this season particularly difficult.” The outlook estimates a 45-percent chance of a near-normal season, a 30-percent chance of an above-normal season, and a 25-percent chance of a below-normal season. The outlook estimates a 70-percent chance of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 miles per hour [mph] or higher, categorized as a tropical storms), including a predicted 4 to 8 hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher) and 1 to 4 “major” hurricanes (major hurricanes are those rated “Category 3” or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Scale and that have sustained winds of at least 111 mph; the term “major” does not refer to, nor necessarily correspond to, their actual impacts on land and people). One named storm already occurred in 2016: Hurricane Alex, in January.
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. 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.”
The outlook is a collaboration of the Climate Prediction Center, the National Hurricane Center, and the Hurricane Research Division, all within NOAA.
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=2016&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 four years:
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.
Also on May 27, 2016, NOAA issued its outlook for the Eastern Pacific basin. That report is available online at http://www.cpc.ncep.noaa.gov/products/Epac_hurr/Epac_hurricane.html. For the Eastern Pacific hurricane basin, NOAA estimates a 40-percent chance of a near-normal season, a 30-percent chance of an above-normal season, and a 30-percent chance of a below-normal season. Overall, the outlook predicts a 70-percent probability for 13-20 named storms; 6-11 hurricanes; and 3-6 major hurricanes.
National Hurricane Center’s graph of the tracks of Atlantic tropical storms and hurricanes in 2015, accessed at http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/data/tcr/index.php?season=2015&basin=atl.