Forecasters expect a slightly below average 2017 hurricane season

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – Hurricane season doesn’t start until June 1st, but the first forecast for the 2017 season is already out.

“Colorado State University has had this long tradition since the 1980’s I believe of forecasting seasons in advance what the hurricane season would be like,” said Scott Curtis, an atmospheric science professor at ECU.

They’re predicting a slightly below average hurricane season this year with 11 named storms, 4 becoming hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes.

“They look at all of these signals of climate around the world,” said Curtis. “For example, El Niño in the Pacific or what’s going on in the Atlantic Ocean or even what’s going on over Africa in terms of things that might promote Saharan dust.”

The Atlantic Ocean is expected to be cooler than normal, which will stunt the potential for storm growth. But El Niño could also play a role. Curtis points out that El Niño, if it does develop, will likely be relatively weak. So it’s unclear exactly how much of an impact it may have on this year’s hurricane season.

With seasonal forecasts coming out weeks in advance, you may wonder just how accurate they really are. Curtis says they’re better than you may think.

“So far, they’ve done a pretty good job,” said Curtis. “As far as against climatology, they’re at about a 69-percent success rate compared to a 50-percent success rate if you just go with climatological averages.”

Last year was a near miss for the group which predicted a slightly below average season that turned out to be slightly above average. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared.

“Even if they do give a forecast which is below normal, it just takes one storm right,” said Curtis. “It just takes one hurricane to affect eastern North Carolina and cause damage like Matthew or Floyd.”

NOAA’s hurricane season outlook is expected to be released sometime in May.

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