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Still pegged at "above-average," NOAA says

Agriculture.com Staff 08/08/2006 @ 12:52pm

This year's hurricane season may not be as severe as expected earlier this year, federal officials announced today.

Yet, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) continues to predict a high likelihood -- a 75% chance -- of an above-normal 2006 Atlantic hurricane season and a 20% chance of a near-normal season, according to scientists at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center (CPC), National Hurricane Center (NHC) and Hurricane Research Division (HRD).

Therefore, 2006 is forecast to be the 10th above-normal season in the last 12 years. An above-normal season typically has eight to 10 hurricanes, with two to eight of them classified as "major."

Today's updated outlook for 2006, according to the CPC, calls specifically for a seasonal total of 12 to 15 named storms, with seven to nine becoming hurricanes and three to four becoming major hurricanes of category-three to -five.

Therefore, CPC officials said today that "for the remainder of the season, we expect an additional nine to 12 named storms, seven to nine hurricanes and three to four major hurricanes."

The predicted 2006 activity mainly reflects a continuation of conditions favoring above-normal Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1995. These conditions include warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures (SSTs), lower vertical wind shear, reduced sea level pressure and a more conducive structure of the African easterly jet.

While CPC officials are predicting an active season, a repeat of last year's record season is unlikely. The season is also expected to be slightly less active than forecast earlier this year, when 13 to 16 named storms, eight to 10 hurricanes and four to six major hurricanes were predicted.

The expected activity is lower, officials say, for three reasons:

  • Atmospheric and oceanic conditions are not as conducive as previously forecast.
  • The transition away from La Niña-like rainfall patterns occurred more quickly than expected.
  • The very persistent upper-level ridge pattern over the eastern U.S. and western Atlantic, which contributed to the extremely active 2003-2005 hurricane seasons, is not present.

The 2005 hurricane season that spawned, among others, Hurricane Katrina, ravaged the Gulf of Mexico coastal region, including the area's agriculture and Mississippi River shipping infrastructure, and ultimately raised Corn Belt crop production costs because of both shipping and fuel cost increases.

This year's hurricane season may not be as severe as expected earlier this year, federal officials announced today.

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