NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center announced that climate conditions point to a below normal hurricane season in the Eastern Pacific this year. The outlook calls for a 5 percent probability of an above normal season, a 25 percent probability of a near normal season and a 70 percent probability of a below normal season.
Allowing for forecast uncertainties, seasonal hurricane forecasters estimate a 70 percent chance of 9 to 15 named storms, which includes 5 to 8 hurricanes, of which 1 to 3 are expected to become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale).
An average Eastern Pacific hurricane season produces 15 to 16 named storms, with eight to nine becoming hurricanes and four becoming major hurricanes. The Eastern Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15 through Nov. 30, with peak activity from July through September.
The main climate factors influencing this year’s Eastern Pacific outlook are:
- Ongoing conditions, such as increased wind shear, that have been suppressing eastern Pacific hurricane seasons since 1995, and
- A high likelihood of ENSO-neutral conditions (no El Niño or La Niña) during the peak months (July-September) of the season, but with lingering La Niña impacts into the summer.
“Regardless of this outlook, NOAA urges people in the Eastern Pacific to prepare for the 2011 hurricane season and remain vigilant throughout the season – it only takes one hurricane to cause a lot of damage and loss of life,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, part of the U.S. National Weather Service.
The outlook is a general guide to the overall seasonal hurricane activity. It does not predict whether, where, or when any of these storms may hit land.
Eastern Pacific tropical storms most often track westward over open waters, sometimes reaching Hawaii and beyond. However, some occasionally head toward the northeast and may bring rainfall to the arid southwestern United States during the summer months. Also, during any given season, two to three tropical storms can affect western Mexico or Central America. Residents, businesses and government agencies of coastal and near-coastal regions should always prepare prior to each and every hurricane season regardless of the seasonal hurricane outlook.