NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Update

Last week the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released an updated seasonal forecast, and due to the waning El Nino has increased their forecast for the number of storms expected this year, now saying there is an increased chance for an “above average” season.  What does that mean to you, the huddled masses cowering in fear along the shoreline, waiting for your inevitable doom?

Exactly nothing (assuming you have a hurricane plan already, which you should no matter what the seasonal forecast says).

First, even if you knew *exactly* how many storms were going to form in a year, it tells you nothing about how bad the season will be.  There have been above average years in raw numbers with no hurricane landfalls.  1992 was a below average year – well, except for Hurricane Andrew.  So unless you know where they are going to go, even one hurricane can ruin your day, and 20 can be no big deal if they are all fish storms.

Second, the numbers used to compute the averages are becoming more and more suspect.  This year’s “hurricane” Barry more than likely would not have been classified as a hurricane in past years for a number of reasons (before anyone yelps, no, this isn’t part of the Vast Global Warming Conspiracy(tm), it’s because of better observation systems that can see small patches of possible hurricane force winds, and different classification criteria).

I really don’t like the hype around seasonal forecasts and their updates.  Dr. Mark Johnson of UCF and I used to do them (including something NOAA doesn’t do, landfall probabilities), but the media circus and subsequent fear mongering were just a bit too much.  We still generate them, and they have decent enough skill, but they aren’t really “actionable” except for narrow applications.  About the only thing they are good from a public safety standpoint is “awareness,” but there are other ways of doing that than shoveling out the statistical stables …

So if you haven’t put together a plan yet, slap yourself and go to visit the FEMA web site and get some checklists to think about, consult your local EMA for risk maps for your risk of flooding (which is by far the major threat to life; the golden rule is shelter from wind, evacuate from water), and put together a plan.  Then don’t worry about it.

Updates on Maria, Chris, Japan, Beryl, all kinds of stuff

Supertyphoon Maria passed north of Taiwan yesterday, and has now made landfall in China.  Here’s an image from this morning US time …

Taiwan seems to have escaped major damage by a northward wobble and weakening intensity.  Damage on Mainland China could be more extensive, on the order of billions of dollars, but there isn’t any reliable information as of yet.

Japan is still reeling from flooding over the last week.  BBC is reporting 179 killed, 70 still missing, 8.6 million people displaced. The landslides and other disruption from this event will continue to be felt for some time.

Elsewhere of interest, Hurricane Chris continues to speed up and will likely brush Newfoundland before it heads towards Iceland.  No major damage is expected – stuff up there is built to handle winter storms.  The remnants of Beryl are in the Bahamas, and NHC is watching them for possible regeneration into an organized storm this weekend coming up.  If it does it will most likely wander out into the Atlantic, nothing to get excited about yet.

Lots of neat science stuff going on here, hope to post about that soon!

Tropical Update; Beryl/Puerto Rico, Chris, Maria, Japan Flooding

Three tropical cyclones to talk about today.  In the Atlantic, Beryl continues to weaken as it passes over Dominica and Guadeloupe.  The major concern at the moment is that it will dump a lot of rain across the Greater Antilles (Puerto Rico and Hispaniola) Monday; Puerto Rico’s infrastructure is still rather fragile.  Off the North Carolina coast, Tropical Storm Chris has formed from TD#3.  It will meander and strengthen off the US coast for a couple days before heading north, probably becoming a minimal hurricane and paralleling the shoreline before hitting Newfoundland as a strong transitioning extratropical system.  While a further westward wobble isn’t likely, worth keeping an eye on if you live on the outer banks and Northeast.  The strongest winds should stay well offshore, but waves and some rain are possible.  Here’s the current forecast impact map for the Atlantic:

In the West Pacific, Tropical Cyclone Maria is still headed for Northern Taiwan and the Chinese Mainland, currently forecast to make landfall as a strong category 2 storm on Wednesday.  Upwards of $5 Billion in impacts are possible on this track, but a slight wobble to the south could bring Taipei in the damage swath and easily quadruple that number …

The major flood event in Japan continues – millions evacuated, over 70 presumed or confirmed dead as heavy rain continued yesterday.  Things should clear up a bit over the next few days, but the threat of landslides continues, and with the ground supersaturated it may not dry out before the next round of precipitation.

Beryl, TD3 in the Atlantic; Pacific region disasters (current and future)

So much for vacation: suddenly got awfully busy around here … starting in the Atlantic, we have two storms this morning.  Here’s the big picture …

The first, “Hurricane” Beryl, is a very compact and (most likely) weakening storm headed towards Martinique (as a tropical storm) and points west.  Naturally people in Puerto Rico are concerned about this system, but it looks like it will pass to the south as a disorganized low. That said, any system dumping rain across the island can cause lots of misery, especially given the extensive damage left over from last year.  Impacts for forecast to be less than 1/10th of that forecast yesterday, but it’s a small weird storm, hard to model, and NHC has more disclaimers in their forecast discussion than usual …

The other Atlantic storm is TD#3.  Tropical Depression #3 is off the coast of North Carolina, and is expected to meander for a bit then strengthen into a minimal hurricane and head north, staying just offshore.  No watches or warnings up for this one at the moment.

The Pacific is active as well, with a storm in the East Pacific (Fabio, well off of Mexico) that is weakening over colder waters.  There is a new typhoon near the Mariana Islands that is forecast to pass just north of Taiwan and hit the Chinese coast – it could be fairly strong at that time, more as it develops.  But the big story in the east is the massive flooding in Japan.  Here is the CFS2 model total precip across the region yesterday.

This BBC report has more detail – 38 reported killed so far, and unfortunately the rains are expected to continue.