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Colorado State University researchers predict well-below-average Atlantic hurricane season

A satellite image shows Hurricane Arthur moving out

A satellite image shows Hurricane Arthur moving out to sea after drenching eastern North Carolina in July 2014. Credit: NOAA

Colorado State University researchers are predicting a well-below-average Atlantic hurricane season this year, "one of the least active seasons since the middle of the 20th century," according to their annual report, released yesterday.

Seven named storms are predicted, three of which are expected to become hurricanes, with one reaching major strength as Category 3, 4 or 5, according to the school's Tropical Meteorology Project. That's compared with the climatological average of 12 named storms, 6.5 hurricanes, two of them major. Still, as lead author Philip J. Klotzbach has warned coastal residents before, "It takes only one landfall event near you to make this an active season."

The prediction is based on study of 60 years of historical data, with this year's conditions, so far, similar to those leading into five seasons with below-normal activity, including that of 2014, said Klotzbach, a research scientist. Hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.

Klotzbach's team also had predicted a below-normal season for 2014, which delivered eight named storms, six becoming hurricanes, two of them major.

Key factors at play this year, similarly, are the cooling of the tropical Atlantic and a likely moderate to strong El Niño event, the report said. El Niño is defined as the "warming of waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific," according to researchers. "Historical data indicate fewer storms form in these conditions," Klotzbach said.

The report also makes calls on hurricane landfall probability. For this year's season there's a 52 percent probability for the East Coast, including Florida, getting a direct hit by a named storm -- 15 percent for a major hurricane.

While probability in any year is low for a New York hit, individuals and organizations "should always be prepared with a hurricane plan, since all it takes is one storm in a below-average year to create major problems," said Brian Colle, professor in Stony Brook University's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. "We also witnessed with Sandy that it does not take a major hurricane, Category 3 and up, to create catastrophic consequences, especially for urbanized coastal areas."

Powerful superstorm Sandy was no longer considered a hurricane when it hit Long Island Oct. 29, 2012, flooding homes, ripping up boardwalks and battering shorelines.

Further updates from Colorado State are planned for June 1, July 1 and Aug. 3. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center comes out with its hurricane outlook May 27, with an update in early August.

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