Hurricane Predictions

There is a fascination with a forecast of what to expect for the next hurricane season.  And we turn to meteorologists to make these predictions.  However predictions are  really only educated guesses.  In truth, there should be little emphasis on “educated”, and a lot of emphasis on “guesses”.

Most notable are the seasonal predictions of  Drs. William Gray and Phillip Klotzbach of Colorado State University. In 2013 Klotzbach and Gray predicted 18 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes. Hedging their bets, NOAA called for 13-20 named storms, 7-11 were expected to become hurricanes with 3-6 major hurricanes There were actually14 named storms  and only 2 hurricanes and no major storms..   Klotzbach called it the biggest forecast bust in 30 years.  Hardly. 

In 2005 there were 28 named storms, 15 hurricanes, and 7 major hurricanes.  Gray predicted 13 named storms, 7 hurricanes  and 3 major hurricanes.   NOAA’s NHC prediction for 2005 was  12-15 tropical storms, 7-9 hurricanes with 3-5 major hurricanes. The preseason hurricane forecasts have been demonstrated annually to show virtually no mathematical skill and value, except to satisfy a public curiosity.  And NOAA has actually funded these forecasts.

The long-term average is 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.  We are under the influence of an El Nino which suggests fewer that “normal” might be expected.

However, since 1995 we have been in a more active period.  For the 2014 hurricane season, some predictions follow.

Drs. William Gray and Phillip Klotzbach of Colorado State University predict 9 names storms, 3 hurricanes and 1 major hurricane.  Now this group has in the past adjusted their predictions as the season progresses so by Nov. 30, they are spot on.

The Weather Channel predicts 11 named storms, 5 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes.

The Hurricane Center decided to hedge it bets and give a range estimate with so many escape clauses as to make them as useful and they are comprehensible. They predict a 70% probability that there will be 8-13 named storms, 3-6 hurricanes and 1-2 major hurricanes.  How can they possibly be very wrong with these guesses?  I would even be please is NOAA would say, for example, we are 5% certain that there will be 12 named storms, 5 hurricanes and 1 major hurricane.

I can do better.  I predict with 100% certainty that there will be 1-30 named storms and 4 - 18 hurricanes and 0-5 major hurricanes. Now, I know I have to be more specific than NOAA and really go out on a limb.  So here are my guesses: There is a El Nino and we are near the end, I believe, of a 20 year active period,  so I will go with 12 named storms, 5 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes.

To be more relevant.  It isn’t how many or even how strong, but where it hits.  One storm early in the hurricane season, August 2, 1002 changed everything. IT ISN’T THE NUMBER – IT IS THE LANDFALL LOCATION.   LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION.  Fortunately for Tallahassee, we are well protected.  In that respect will go further than others and predict 2 land-falling named storms, one of which (at least) is a hurricane. If a hurricane makes landfall in  Florida, it will be in the Keys or in the Panhandle.  Of course I hope this forecast is an over estimate, and it will may be since I believe the steering currents this year will be much as they were last year during which no hurricanes made it to landfall – but part of the credit for that were the currents and southerly frontal systems, and part of it was just luck.  Again, I believe from all that I can tell, that the steering currents will remain much the same.


PS: I have always wanted to have a prediction contest, maybe someday I will if I can determine it is legal.