WRUF Weather

Hurricane Week: 2013 forecast for Florida

The Big One. It’s a common perception that it CAN’T happen here in North-Florida. We recently busted that myth and showed you how dangerous conditions can be hundreds of miles from the eye, even this far inland.  The 2013 Atlantic Hurricane Season is forecast to be very active, and since the Sunshine State has been spared a direct hit for many years, Floridians should be especially aware of the chances this season.

The official forecast from NOAA suggests 13 to 20 named storms, 7 to 11 hurricanes, and 3 to 6 that could become major hurricanes.  These ranges are well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.  Many other forecasters agree that 2013 is likely to be an above-average year, and not just in number of storms, but in landfalls as well.

Dr. William Grey, Professor Emeritus from Colorado State University

“We think that landfall along the U.S. is one and half times higher than an average year, particularly in the Florida peninsula and the East Coast,” says Professor Emeritus Dr. William Gray.

The Colorado State forecaster also says Florida’s chance of seeing a major hurricane is 34%, well above the average of 21%.  What makes landfall in Florida so probable this year is the simple fact we are overdue.  Over the past century, a major hurricane has struck Florida once every 3-4 years.  It has been seven years since our last major landfall, which was Wilma in 2005.

2004 has been repeatedly cited by forecasters as a year with similar atmospheric conditions to 2013, meaning similar storm tracks to that infamous year are also possible.

The conditions that are present and that serve as the basis for this year’s forecast of an active season are:

  1. Warmer than normal water temperatures already exist in the central and eastern Atlantic, the energy needed to fuel a developing storm.  Water temperatures were similar last year, but a constant presence of drier air aloft inhibited hurricane development in the typical breeding grounds near the Cape Verde Islands.
  2. The ENSO signal is neutral, an indication that an El Niño will not develop.  El Niño weather patterns create stronger winds aloft over the Atlantic Basin that to shear or rip a storm apart before it has a chance to mature.
  3. We’re in an active era, a trend that began in the mid 90s and typically lasts 20 to 25 years.  During this multi-decadal period of time, the annual number of named storms nearly doubles during roughly the same period of time before.  This trend is also reflected in terms of major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher).  11 major storms hit Florida during the period of time from 1935 to 1965 whereas only 4 major hurricanes hit between 1965 and 1994.

No matter the forecast, WRUF encourages all Floridans to finish their pre-season preparations, including coming up with a plan should you have to evacuate and/or stocking up on supplies that can get you through a power outage that lasts several days.  You can stay up-to-date with the latest topical updates all season long on WRUF-TV (at 20 minutes past the hour) or on Twitter @WRUFWeather.

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