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Fewer Rainouts? NOAA Presents Below-Average Hurricane Season Forecast

1 Jun, 2015

By: Mary Helen Sprecher

The end of May ushers in a lot of things, among them post-Memorial Day sales, clearance to wear white shoes (if you adhere to the old covenant) and more importantly for sports event planners, hurricane season.

The six-month period of June 1 through November 30 is generally regarded as the at-risk time in the Atlantic area. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), however, forecasts below-average storm activity for 2015, according to TravelWeekly.

That’s great news, particularly given the number of travel tournaments and competitions that take place in the Atlantic region, and in particular, in the Southeastern United States, during that six-month window. Hurricanes and even tropical storms can cause serious disruption to events, and in severe cases, have forced cancellations, evacuations and more.

NOAA is predicting six to 11 tropical storms with three to six reaching hurricane status (winds above 74 mph) and two reaching major hurricane strength (winds topping 111 mph). TravelWeekly noted that in an average year, the Atlantic, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico experience 12 named tropical storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, so this is a decrease.

The season's first event, Tropical Storm Ana, came ashore in North Carolina earlier than most storms, in May.

A strengthening El Nino is the main reason forecasters predict a quiet season. El Nino, characterized by unusually warm temperatures in the equatorial regions of the Pacific Ocean, changes global wind patterns that create unfavorable conditions for the formation of hurricanes.

In addition, the ocean waters in the Atlantic where storms form are not expected to be overly warm, noted a report in USA Today.

"We also expect sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic to be close to normal, whereas warmer waters would have supported storm development," said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

AccuWeather and The Weather Channel, two of the biggest private weather forecasting companies, also expect a quiet hurricane season. AccuWeather said eight named tropical storms will form, four of them hurricanes. The Weather Channel forecasts nine tropical storms — five of them hurricanes.

Since 2000, NOAA's tropical storm and hurricane forecasts have been hit or miss: NOAA's prediction has been accurate in eight of the past 15 years, according to a USA Today analysis.

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