GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – The people at Colorado State University who predict hurricanes and their severity are out with a new forecast that lowers the number of storms expected by Nov. 30 but doesn’t make coastal residents in North Carolina feel much safer.
CSU’s Tropical Weather & Climate Research team now forecasts 18 named storms for this season, down from the 20 they forecast in June and July and the 19 in April, the year’s original forecast. There already have been three hurricanes this year, Alex, Bonnie and Colin.
The report, co-authored by scientists and professors Philip J. Klotzbach, Michael M. Bell and Alexander DesRosiers, cites cooler waters in the subtropical waters of the Atlantic Ocean and fewer vertical wind shears in the Caribbean during the past 30 days.
If that seems vague, consider this raw fact: Forecasters say there remains a 68% chance that the continental U.S. will be struck by at least one Category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane, which is 16% greater chance than in the past century.
If you want to focus more specifically on North Carolina, the East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula, has a 43% chance for a major storm, which is about 12% above the 100-year average.
North Carolina’s hurricanes
North Carolina ranks third among states with the most hurricanes since 1851, as tracked by the property insurance industry, although not so many of them have been the most powerful. NC has seen 55 hurricanes, seven of which were in Category 3, 4 or 5.
Florida, of course, has had the most, with 120/37, followed by Texas, with 64/19. Louisiana, with 54/17, trails NC but has seen much more severity. Some lists have Louisiana with more storms than Florida.
Hurricanes Fran and Floyd were known for hitting North Carolina the hardest, and such storms have caused dozens of deaths. Hurricane Florence in 2018 is said to have killed 43 and Hurricane Matthew in 2016 to have killed 28. Both those storms had significant impact in the Triad, downing trees, cutting off electricity and causing local flooding.
With climate change continuing to bring much higher surface temperatures and more powerful and unpredictable storm systems – there were 21 named storms in 2021, the third most-active season in history – forecasters cite another anomaly for fueling their change.
Even though most factors “tend to point towards an above-normal season,” they wrote, “the subtropical Atlantic has anomalously cooled. This anomalous cooling can increase the tropical/subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperature gradient, potentially favoring increased frontal intrusions into the tropics and increasing vertical wind shear.”
CSU’s forecasters say they base their predictions on “statistical and dynamical models which will fail in some years. Moreover, these forecasts do not specifically predict where within the Atlantic basin these storms will strike. The probability of landfall for any one location along the coast is very low and reflects the fact that, in any one season, most U.S. coastal areas will not feel the effects of a hurricane no matter how active the individual season is.”
They also note that it “only takes one” to make the season active.
The forecasters say that current La Niña conditions are likely to persist for the rest of the Atlantic hurricane season. We continue to anticipate an above-normal probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean.”