Tag: hurricane season

Hurricane season is here—and we’re all ready

Posted by Matt Lanza at 10:00 AM

In our second story to mark the beginning of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, Matt discusses how meteorologists are preparing for life after Harvey. If you missed part one, you can find it here.

In early October of 2017, I had just completed an invigorating 4 mile, 2,100 foot climb to Observation Point in Zion National Park, Utah. It marked one of my prouder moments as a person, because as hiking goes this was considered strenuous for someone like me who isn’t exactly crushing it at the gym every week. And I conquered it. The view was spectacular, but unfortunately, the cell service was great too. At the top of this beautiful overlook, an email was pushed to my phone, asking if I was certain that then Tropical Storm Nate was not going to threaten Texas. And I was reminded that the 2017 hurricane season was almost never going to end, nor was the job of a meteorologist. Even in the middle of nowhere.

The author (and his hat) at Observation Point in Zion National Park last October.

Here we are eight months later, officially beginning a new hurricane season. Obviously, the season began in May with Alberto, which thankfully stayed away from Texas. All the same, I have mixed emotions going into this season. It feels too soon, memories are too raw, and I look at things differently after last year. I’m less meteorologically fascinated and more consumed by personal impacts to people. I think many meteorologists feel similarly. Yes, we stand at the ready to inform and help guide folks through the season ahead, but for most of us, it just feels too soon.

We know so many people in the Houston area, Texas in general, Florida, and Puerto Rico also think it’s much too soon for hurricane season to be upon us once again. But we have to accept that hurricane season is a part of life in these places. It’s a risk we have to live with. After the devastation and misery of last year, I reached out to a handful of folks to “take our temperature” as we head into a new season. We learned much from last year, and we need to apply those lessons in the 2018 season. Here are some thoughts on both the challenges ahead and the progress made.

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With quiet weather, I wanted to take a second to address some viral weather news. We’ve gotten several messages or comments from folks concerned regarding a hurricane outlook that’s being widely shared on social media, particularly Facebook. If you haven’t seen it, the gist of it is what you’d expect from a hurricane outlook in March that’s widely shared on Facebook: Gloom and doom.

I did some digging on the source for the viral post, and while they have over 70,000 Facebook followers, if you try and find out who they actually are, you hit a dead end. I have no idea if the owner of the site sharing this outlook is a degreed meteorologist who created this forecast or is sharing someone else’s with their followers or some guy in Kansas who just likes spinny things. Typically, if I cannot determine who an information source really is, I instantly treat them with a healthy dose of skepticism. And you should too. If it’s any comfort, Eric and I don’t see anything alarming about the upcoming season at this point. That may change — or it may not. It’s still quite early after all. I can tell you personally, as someone who has created a number of hurricane season outlooks for work, there is very little skill in March at predicting where storms will make landfall during the season. Believe me, I’ve tried. And failed every time.

Meanwhile, the actual experts on seasonal hurricane outlooks reside at Colorado State University. They have a good track record historically, and they back their thinking up with a lot of good data. Their early outlook is slated to be released on April 5th. It may be similar to the outlook you’re seeing shared on Facebook. Or it could be entirely different. I honestly don’t know. I do know that even the Colorado State experts will tell you to treat all seasonal hurricane outlooks cautiously.

More importantly, rather than focusing too much on the specifics of an outlook this far in advance, use this time as an opportunity to reset yourself now that we’re months past Harvey. We live in a very hurricane-prone part of the world. I wish we could tell you we’re good for a few years, but we don’t have that luxury in Texas. This is a good chance for you to rehash your evacuation plans, make plans to develop your emergency kit as we get closer to June, and learn more about the risks that may exist in your neighborhood. The time you spend now preparing will help you a lot if a storm threatens us again this season. And if we have nothing to worry about this year? Awesome! We hope that’s what we’re saying in October.

Anyway. We wanted to clear the air on that. On to the weather.

Today & Wednesday

As expected, a pair of stellar days is ahead. Yes, we may have some passing high clouds at times today and tomorrow, but for the most part, sunshine will dominate. A chilly start to today (even some 30s up north!) will warm into the upper 60s this afternoon.

I spy 30s west and north of Houston as of 6 AM! (NOAA/NWS)

We’ll drop back into the 40s again tonight before we approach 70 degrees on Wednesday. Perhaps a bit cool for the beach, but beautiful nonetheless.

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Sublime spring weather continues

Posted by Matt Lanza at 6:43 AM

We’ve had a number of really, really nice spring days in recent weeks. And expect us to get another one today. Let’s get to it.

Colorado State Hurricane Outlook

First, I want to just touch on a report released yesterday from the tropical weather research group at Colorado State University. The CSU team produces one of the most widely used and anticipated seasonal hurricane outlooks for the Atlantic. Their forecast for this year calls for below normal activity in the Atlantic basin.

They’re going with 11 storms, four hurricanes, and two major hurricanes for the 2017 season. Recall that last year saw 15 named storms, seven hurricanes, and four major (Category 3 or stronger) hurricanes. Last year’s CSU April forecast called for 12/5/2 in that order. This year will be challenging with risks of another El Nino developing and some uncertainty as to what the ocean temperature profiles in the Atlantic Ocean will look like during the peak of the season. We’ve been in an active period of Atlantic hurricanes since 1995, and there are questions as to how much longer that will last. They will monitor these variables and update their forecast in early June.

Klotzbach’s team also helps put together landfall probabilities by county. You can examine the details yourself, but in the interest of ease, they give a 3.7% probability of one or more named storms making landfall in Galveston County, compared to a 4.3% chance historically in any given year. Texas as a whole has a 38.2% chance using their methodology, compared to a climatological average of 43.3% that a named storm will make landfall. In a nutshell: Slightly lower than normal odds for a landfall than in an average season.

Use hurricane outlooks with caution

There’s a BIG caveat here. Remember, seasonal hurricane outlooks are primarily an academic exercise. Operationally and for most of you, they don’t matter. If we have two storms in the Atlantic all season and one is category 4 that plows into Galveston, it was a below normal season but an awfully bad one for a lot of people. They’ve become a curiosity we need to share, and the group at Colorado State does really good and ultimately important research. But you should ignore this forecast and go ahead and think about preparing for hurricane season anyway. 

(Space City Weather is sponsored this month by The Mole, a Jonathon Price novel.) Read More…

The Texas hurricane season is probably over

Posted by Eric Berger at 11:43 AM

Long time readers of mine will be familiar with the date of Sept. 24th, the point at which the historical chance of a hurricane striking Texas falls very nearly to zero. Just three hurricanes have struck Texas after that date in the last 160 years, the most recent being Hurricane Jerry, in 1989. (The storm’s landfall, on Oct. 16, is the latest a hurricane has ever hit Texas. It had 85-mph winds and came ashore along Galveston Island).

I’ve waited a few days later this year to make an “end of season” post because I wanted to follow the evolution of Hurricane Matthew (which now, clearly, will not come into the Gulf of Mexico), and because the upper-atmosphere pattern still has a September feel about it. What I mean by this is that the fast-flowing jet stream in the upper levels of the atmosphere really hasn’t dug that far south yet, bringing with it strong wind currents that are hostile to hurricane formation and intensification.

This GFS model forecast for upper-level winds next Thursday morning shows that the jet stream isn't far enough south to provide really strong upper-level winds along the Texas coast. (Weather Bell)

This GFS model forecast for upper-level winds next Thursday morning shows that the jet stream isn’t far enough south to provide really strong upper-level winds along the Texas coast. (Weather Bell)

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