2011 Hurricane Predictions

by Emily Holbrook on April 11, 2011 · 24 comments

It may turn out to be a rough hurricane season ahead if forecasts from the team at Colorado State University prove true. The somewhat famous team (at least in these circles) of Dr. William Gray and Phil Klotzbach, predicted back in December that there would be 17 named storms. Late last week, that prediction was adjusted as the CSU team issued their latest hurricane predictions: 16 named storms, nine hurricanes and five major hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater.

“We expect that anomalously warm tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures combined with neutral tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures will contribute to an active season,” said Phil Klotzbach of the CSU Tropical Meteorology Project. “We have reduced our forecast slightly from early December due to a combination of recent ocean warming in the eastern and central tropical Pacific and recent cooling in the tropical Atlantic.”

Though forecasts were adjusted downward slightly, Dr. Gray issued a warning:

“We remain – since 1995 – in a favorable multi-decadal period for enhanced Atlantic Basin hurricane activity, which is expected to continue for the next 10-15 years or so,” said Gray. “Except for the very destructive hurricane seasons of 2004-2005, United States coastal residents have experienced no other major landfalling hurricanes since 1999. This recent 9 of 11-year period without any major landfall events should not be expected to continue.”

The team’s probabilities for a major hurricane making landfall on U.S. soil breaks down as follows:

  • 72% chance that at least one major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. coastline in 2011 (the long-term average probability is 52%)
  • A 48% chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula (the long-term average is 31%)
  • A 47% chance that a major hurricane will make landfall on the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville (the long-term average is 30%)
  • 61% chance of a major hurricane tracking into the Caribbean (the long-term average is 42%)

Check out the May issue of Risk Management (available online May 1) for an article on the 2011 hurricane season and the science behind hurricane names.

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Emily Holbrook is the executive managing editor for National Underwriter Life & Health and the former editor of the Risk Management Monitor and Risk Management magazine. You can read more of her writings at EmilyHolbrook.com.

{ 24 comments… read them below or add one }

Dennis Slabaugh April 21, 2011 at 5:00 pm

I blogged on RIMS last May about the media hype of the Hurricane predictions and how the even greater hype of the Oil spill was overshadowing the usual media hysteria every year around this time. As was expected, the media did a good job of ruining tourism in Florida for a year for no actual reason other than to sell stories. And, I was right on both accounts; only predictions, not results.

I have a question though and would like a comparison of these “guru’s” predictions vs. actual results the past 5 years?

Thanks

Andy April 27, 2011 at 5:16 pm

If the “Prediction Center” was located somewhere along the Gulf Coast instead of Colorado it might give a little more weight to these predictions. This is sort of like getting an Aspen snow for cast from Key West.

Cagen May 2, 2011 at 12:36 pm

No one can predict the future so they are *never* right (until they predict *exactly* the number of storms *year after year*). They get *lucky* just the same way I can be lucky guessing a coin toss.
You are correct in stating they are doomsayers and crackpot [psycho] psychics: making a living by sitting on their butts in their little laboratories wasting money and resources while others work for a living.

Greg May 5, 2011 at 1:49 pm

While i do feel that the predictions are high from year to year these numbers should be used and they should state so the numbers are for prepairedness. There is probably 3 thousand miles of u.s. coastline and while the numbers seem high one storm will only affect a couple of hundred miles. these numbers are however being used by fema and mortgage companies to issue insurance premiums. Fema has recently required flood insurance for all homes within 10 miles of the coast. Instead of useing actual information from previous storms. The insurance industry gets upset if the have to pay claims on 1% of the extortion money they take in. I don’t believe that the scientist act like psychics and they do have valid technology that is ever expanding. they can noe predict a path almost a week in advance. When i was a kid you had maybe 1 days notice.

Really??? May 6, 2011 at 8:07 am

Saying that the location of the “prediction center” has any correlation to the validity of the predictions themselves is just the most ridiculous thing I’ve read in a while. Do you think they make their predictions by standing out on a balcony and gazing out into the ocean? The answer is NO, they use highly sophisticated equipment and models which can be accessed anywhere in the world.

nicole May 6, 2011 at 12:32 pm

I Agree the location of the “predtiction center” is far from the point. With the fact that i Live in flordia you would be shocked to see how many people arent prepared for a storm. raiding wlamart 3 days before a store hits shore is stipid. before the season starts stock up on battries, bottled water, canned food, and gas. Every year we prepare and when a storm did hit we were the only ones on the block ready for it.

Perdictions arejust that.. a guess.. but a good one at that with the new equiptment and advanced technology we have forcasters have been right most of the time.

Its time people listen to the experts and just be prepared. its not to freak people out just to warn them of what might come.

Viking Storm Chaser May 8, 2011 at 2:15 pm

QUOTE “We remain – since 1995 – in a favorable multi-decadal period for enhanced Atlantic Basin hurricane activity, which is expected to continue for the next 10-15 years or so,” said Gray. “Except for the very destructive hurricane seasons of 2004-2005, United States coastal residents have experienced no other major landfalling hurricanes since 1999. This recent 9 of 11-year period without any major landfall events should not be expected to continue. ”/QUOTE

So Hurricane Ike didn’t make landfall in Galveston killing 47 people and causing millions of dollars worth of damage in September 2008!!

Dennis Slabaugh May 11, 2011 at 10:35 am

As a follow up, my heart goes out to those who were affected by the recent record number of fatal tornados. At least we get media attention BEFORE a hurricane strikes rather than only after the fact like the ravaging tornados…. as much as it is hype. But, that having been said, with all the death and destruction of the tornados in contrast to the aftermath of a menacing hurricane, why don’t we have more “science” and preparation for tornados? Is it because they strike so quickly? Is there no “value” for the media in the “hype” as there can be with months of predictions and anticipations of hurricane activity?

John May 11, 2011 at 12:50 pm

Tornadoes and Hurricanes form differently. Hurricanes form over very warm wet oceans and lose their energy over dry land. Tornadoes need cold air that is colliding with warm air to form. Tornadoes form quickly which make them hard to predict. They are not influenced by air currents fifty thousand feet in the atmosphere. Hurricanes take days to get from the coast of Africa to the US coastline. They are affected by air currents in the atmosphere. This gives forecasters many days to predict. To make a comparison between the two, all you can say is that they both have high wind. Meteorology has no definite way of predicting when and where a tornado is going to hit. You just need to be ready if you live in an area prone to each of the storms.

Coyle May 14, 2011 at 10:00 pm

I would definitely feel better if these guys lived in a hurricane prone area regardless of special technology. The fact they don’t live in an area like ours in Florida, Atlantic coast, or even Gulf coast just says they don’t experience our weather first hand. Especially Florida weather, in Florida in can be raining in my backyard but Not in my front yard. The national hurricane center is here in Florida. I personally doubt this year will be an active season based on the weather I have seen this year, the winter this year was very cold for Florida weather, which says to me that the ocean in my area will not be the temperature needed to strengthen a hurricane. But that’s just me I base my thoughts of the hurricane season on the prior winter.

Ric May 20, 2011 at 4:13 am

I’d like to see what the accuracy of these presictions are since they began the predictions since they started making them. Like last year scaring so many people with predictions so many will make landfall and nothing, not a single one ever hit land.
Exactly how accurate are these predictions?
Ric

Emily Holbrook May 20, 2011 at 9:02 am

Thanks for your comment, Ric. If you read this article, you can get a gauge of their accuracy.

Twila Ramsey May 20, 2011 at 11:09 am

I don’t know what it takes to be called major, but did they sleep through Hurricane Ike in 2008.

Probably it was mis-classified from the beginning, but it was MAJOR in damage and death.

It was the third costliest in U.S History;
destroyed Galveston;
major damage in Beaumont, Port Arthur, Orange and other coastal towns in the area;
caused damage as far north as Illinois and power outages in Ohio;
death toll in the US was over 100 including some in Kentucky.

D Walker May 23, 2011 at 12:40 pm

I shake my head every time I hear people even attempt to make hurricane predictions. I have lived on the Gulf Coast since 1971 and have seen several hurricanes, tropical depressions, tropical storms, tropical waves, you name it. The key is nobody knows. These same folks went on record last year saying it was going to be a active year for hurricanes: 8 hurricanes, 5 major hurricanes, 3 to strike the US. Umm, unless I was in a tree, the US didn’t get a major hurricane strike last year. Don’t get me wrong, make sure you are hurricane ready meaning insurance polices, tarps, water, food, gasoline, ice, flashlights, generators, extension cords, A/C window units, etc. etc. However, weather folks have a tendency to “blow stuff way out of proportion”. Ask Mr. Cantori when he got punch in the face in the Summer of 2006 in Mississippi right after Katrina, Rita and Wilma. They got chased out of town. Truly a classic. Weather people fail to realize that some people don’t know what is real and what is exaggerated. They, weather people, cause major panic among people by saying stupid, unthought opinions which does nobody any good. Just my two cents. I am a weather freak. The weather is truly an awesome, unpredictable power.

And Kudos Viking for setting the record straight in regards to IKE. I was in the middle of all that with my property suffering over $85K in damage and some people were left with nothing changing their lives forever.

J Hooton May 24, 2011 at 8:23 pm

And to add to the IKE statement….What about Ivan that hit Pensacola severely in 2001? I was here, lived it, and don’t want another. Cat 4 at landfall, flooded half the city, took out two major bridges and left blue roofs on houses that were left standing for as far as 40+ miles inward for over a year.

Barbosa May 30, 2011 at 11:13 am

I just wonder how people can argue the concept of “prediction” without understanding what implies the terms “probability”…. HUM! The same people do believe when the experts state that certain political candidate will win any position based on polls. SAME CONCEPT!!! Probability means that based upon verified information we can statistically guess what should be expected of a future outcome.
Effective? YES! That is how laws are legislated, that is how funds are assigned for government programs, that is how military actions are planned… you name it.

In the event that nobody “has lived in the future”, what we are left with, is making mathematical models of what can happen under a certain set of circumstances.

Dark Star May 31, 2011 at 7:14 am

Quote from Viking Storm Chaser—
“So Hurricane Ike didn’t make landfall in Galveston killing 47 people and causing millions of dollars worth of damage in September 2008!!”

Texas is the Gulf, not Atlantic shoreline. Thats a whole different ball of wax.

As for the rest…. as a Southeast Floridian, every year, I read the forecast predictions, coz its a good basis to go on. You can get information on El Nino/La Nina, and whether or not theyre active…. and an educated guess to the probabilities. But do I believe theyre absolutely accurate? No. I watch the predictions fail every year, too. I dont think its intended to be gospel…. I think its just to give people an idea of what to expect.

Maas Rubin June 25, 2011 at 3:54 pm

I’m Going on a cruise probably on July so I hope what you predicted doesn’t happen.

Ernest F. Cooke July 17, 2011 at 8:24 pm

if you look at the hurricane predictors you will notice that they all revise their predictions with the last one in september when little is left of the season. i predict hurricanes but the best you can do is predict the complete season. using the total 2011 ACE number. my 2011 prediction is ACE under 135 and that is the lowest prediction of anybody and i expect it to be at least 10% under. i also predicted no named storms in june and i missed by 2 days. for july i predict no hurricanes. the june-july storm was not a hurricane. all the models, including mine, have a significant random component so it is impossible to ace it every year. part of my predictions is that we are in the process of moving from la nina to el nino

Steve July 21, 2011 at 10:50 am

Like Yogi Berra said, “It’s hard to make predictions especially about the future”

Little Girl Blue August 8, 2011 at 3:28 pm

I think the predictions are good, take Hurricane Hugo for instance, Charleston was demolished because of that. There were boats in trees, and houses knocked off their foundations.Some were out of power for more than a month, sustaining catastrophic damages. Hurricanes are no joke, I feel that if there is the possibility of an active season, we should know about it so we can be ready. Even if it is exaggerated. I would rather be prepared for something that doesn’t happen than be SOL for something that does. I take the predictions and I prepare myself for the worst!!

Jazlyn August 28, 2011 at 8:00 am

This completely lines up with the events occurred during Hurricane Irene. Here in Virginia Beach was terrible, but the overall damage has yet to be seen.

Ardnas September 1, 2011 at 2:42 pm

Oh stop complaining about something you do not know anything about…Irene came and went….I live in Connecticut in a spot that was not hit by floods or high winds….who knows why….It could be the lay of the land around me….but guess what….there was flooding and trees and poles down all around me and even some in my town were without power for a couple of days while I didn’t loose mine…..I was spared, but many were not and just because it was not bad for me does not mean others did not suffer and are still suffering…Many in my state will not have ;power until next week….It was not hype to those who were and are effected..Lastly, if these people had prepared properly, we would not have to be spending time and money getting food and water to them…..More emphasize has to be put on the idea of PREPARING for your own needs. I do not mind helping people out, but I am tired of people’s mentality that the government will help them so never mind preparing….After all, we had a week of warning here….but people apparently decided it was just hype….So you who are tired of hype, I am tire of your proud arrogance.

Andy Fox December 13, 2011 at 4:09 pm

In hindsight, the forecasters admitted that they over estimated hurricanes (and understimated lesser storms). They are about as reliable as NFL scouts. Here is their mea culpa:

http://hurricane.atmos.colostate.edu/forecasts/2011/nov2011/nov2011.pdf

Although I did not find the primary source, this website reports that these Colorado profs are going to get out of the forecasting business:

http://www.ottawacitizen.com/mobile/story.html?id=5847032

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