The violent, deadly tornadoes that leveled portions of Oklahoma and other states may be an indicator of what Mother Nature has in store for the Atlantic seaboard, if an updated hurricane prediction is any indication.

The Colorado State University (CSU) hurricane forecast team continues to predict an above-average 2013 Atlantic basin hurricane season, due primarily to unusually warm water in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and an expected lack of an El Niño event. The team calls for 18 named storms during the hurricane season (June 1 to Nov. 30). Nine of them are expected to become hurricanes, and four of those are expected to become major hurricanes with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater.

“The tropical Atlantic remains anomalously warm, and it appears the chances of an El Niño event this summer and fall are unlikely,” says Phil Klotzbach, of the CSU Tropical Meteorology Project. “Typically, El Niño is associated with stronger vertical shear across the tropical Atlantic, creating conditions less conducive for storm formation.”

The team’s annual predictions are intended to provide a best estimate of hurricane activity during the upcoming season, not an exact measure. The forecasts are based on the premise that global oceanic and atmospheric conditions, such as El Niño, Atlantic basin sea-surface temperatures and sea-level pressures that preceded past active or inactive hurricane seasons, provide meaningful information about similar conditions that will likely occur in the current year.

“All vulnerable coastal residents should make the same hurricane preparations every year, regardless of how active or inactive the seasonal forecast is,” says William Gray, founder of the Tropical Meteorology Project and co-author of the forecast, now in its 30th year. “It takes only one landfall event near you to make this an active season.”


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The Atlantic basin has been in an active hurricane period since 1995, due to a change in large-scale atmospheric and oceanic conditions. These active periods typically last about 25-35 years, based on historical records since the mid-19th century.

Other than the two very active landfall years of 2004 and 2005, the U.S. hasn’t experienced as many major hurricanes as would be expected given this active cycle.

“The U.S. has been especially fortunate in experiencing no major hurricane landfalls since 2005,” Gray says. “Prior to the past seven years, there had not been a seven-year period on record since 1851 with no major hurricane landfalls in the U.S. These conditions should not be expected to continue.”