2008 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its outlook on May 22 for the 2008 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30. NOAA is projecting a total of 12 to 16 named storms, of which six to nine will intensify to hurricanes. This is projected to include two to five becoming major hurricanes - rated at Category 3 or higher.
This forecast is consistent with the outlooks issued by Colorado State University and the Tropical Storm Risk Consortium in early April. What these numbers mean is that all three centres are calling for a busy hurricane season in the Atlantic.
|Forecast Source||Forecst Date||Tropical Storms||Hurricanes||Major Hurricanes|
12 - 16
11 - 19
5 - 11
2 - 5
- National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration
- Colorado State University Tropical Meterology Project (PDF)
- Tropical Storm Risk, Benfield Hazard Institute (University College London)
For detailed information on what’s behind each of these outlooks, click on the hyperlinks above.
What does this mean for Canada?
Though the science of hurricane forecasting has evolved tremendously with help from improved technologies, it has not evolved enough to accurately predict when and where these storms will move or make landfall months in advance. The details of the large-scale weather patterns that direct the path of hurricanes cannot be predicted more than a few days in the future.
The graphic below shows the number of named storms each year in the Atlantic since 1995 as well as the number (and percentage) of those storms which threatened Canada and her waters by moving inside the Canadian Hurricane Centre’s response zone.
|Date||Named Storms||Storms In Response Zone||% of Storms In Response Zone|
Since 1995, 36 percent, or roughly one-third of the tropical storms forming in the Atlantic have threatened Canada or her waters in some way. However, due to the variability from year to year, we cannot rely heavily on this type of statistic. For example, 50 percent of the tropical storms approached Canada in 1999 while only 13 percent moved our way last year. In terms of raw numbers since 1995, we’ve been threatened by as many as eight (1995) and as few as two (2007) tropical storms or hurricanes.
Looking specifically at damaging tropical cyclones since the 1990s in the light of seasonal activity level across the Atlantic (based on total tropical cyclone energy for the year) we find no connection. For example, hyper-active seasons have brought us landfalling Hurricane Juan (Nova Scotia 2003), and the flooding rainfalls from Frances (Ontario 2004) and Rita (eastern Canada 2005). Meanwhile, below-normal seasons have brought us landfalling Hurricane Gustav (Nova Scotia 2002), the damaging winds and waves of Florence (Newfoundland 2006) and Noel (Nova Scotia 2007), and the flooding rains of Chantal (Newfoundland 2007).
With no clear correlation between the number of tropical storms in the Atlantic and the number that might impact Canada each year, the seasonal outlooks offer little in the way of helpful decision-making information. But this does not mean that Canadians should be complacent. Since 2000, eastern Canada has been significantly impacted by one or two damaging tropical storms or hurricanes each year, regardless of the overall hurricane activity across the Atlantic.
What should you do?
Therefore, we all must prepare the same way every year; not by fearing these storms, but by respecting their power to impact our lives in a negative way. Perhaps the greatest use of the seasonal forecasts is that they remind everyone that hurricane season is upon us and we must be prepared. The prevention of the loss of life and property from tropical cyclones is a responsibility shared by all of us. As a reminder of our lessons learned from Hurricane Juan in 2003, it only takes one hurricane hitting in your community to make it a bad season.
Public Safety Canada has a great website to help you assess your readiness for severe weather. Check out what you need to do to get prepared.
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