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Forecasters Cautious as Hurricane Season Nears

May 23, 2008 11:03 AM
by Josh Katz
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts that this season will be slightly worse than normal, but recent criticism for overestimation has led forecasters to hedge.

30-Second Summary

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Hurricane season officially begins on June 1. The NOAA predicts that there will be 12–16 named storms this year. Of them, forecasters expect six to nine hurricanes, including two to five major hurricanes.

An average hurricane season consists of 11 named storms, including and six hurricanes, two of them major. Last hurricane season comprised 15 named storms but kept to the average six hurricanes, two of which were major.

Forecasters have been criticized recently for overestimating the number of hurricanes, so this year the NOAA used percentages for the first time: scientists say there’s a 60–70 percent chance their prediction for this season is accurate. Louis Uccellini, director of the National Centers for Environmental Protection, said, “We learned a lesson.”

But the numbers still point to a worse than average season, and that brings up questions of preparedness. Some local New Orleans officials fear that their city may be lulled into a “false sense of safety” thanks to the past two relatively mild hurricane seasons, and the safety precautions may not be up to par, according to the Associated Press.

The NOAA’s predictions came less than a week after the debate over global warming’s effect on storms took a new turn. Meteorologist Tom Knutson was renowned for his belief that the warming of the oceans, resulting from global warming, was to blame for the recent increase in the number of hurricanes. But he published the results of a study on May 18 revealing that global warming may not be the culprit, that storms may actually decrease in the future, and that this might just be the high point of a natural cycle.

Headline Link: Worse than average hurricane season

Background: Global warming’s effect on storms; ‘10 Costliest Hurricanes’

Opinion & Analysis: What to make of the conflicting reports over storms

Related Topics: New Orleans prepares, Houston stays put

Reference: Home protection

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