The year's first forecast for the 2015 hurricane season predicts a considerably below-average season this year, with 7 named storms, 3 hurricanes and 1 major hurricane at category 3 strength or higher.
The 2015 Hurricane Seasonal Outlook, released Thursday by Dr. Phil Klotzbach and Dr. Bill Gray at Colorado State University, is the lowest tropical season forecast the university has ever issued.
2015 forecast summary
- 7 named storms
- 3 hurricanes
- 1 major hurricane (category 3 or above)
- VIEW CHART: CSU Hurricane Forecast Accuracy, 1984–2015 ▼
The forecast from the CSU team comes on the heels of one of the quietest hurricane seasons on record, and the ninth straight season without a major storm to hit Florida. Only eight storms were named in 2014. Six of those became hurricanes, but none made landfall in Florida.
An average tropical season in the Atlantic contains roughly 12 named storms, 7 of which become hurricanes, and 3 that intensify to major hurricanes.
The Colorado State forecasters said the reason for their below-average forecast was due in part to the onset of El Niño, which is projected to strengthen throughout hurricane season. El Niño is the abnormal warming of the Pacific Ocean waters, which in turn causes cooler conditions in the Atlantic, making it less favorable for tropical development.
El Niño conditions also promote a stronger vertical wind shear in the Atlantic, making it more difficult for tropical cyclones to develop. In contrast, the presence of El Niño can lead to a more active tropical season for the Pacific Ocean.
The seasonal outlook is for the entire Atlantic Basin, not just for Florida, so it is important to remember that just one of these storms striking Florida would make it a big season for us.
Think back to 1992, which was a fairly quiet season — the first named storm did not develop until August, but that storm became Hurricane Andrew and devastated South Florida with Category 5 winds.
Therefore, prepare as you would for any hurricane season, and have your disaster readiness kits and evacuation plans ready.
Hurricane season officially begins in the Atlantic on June 1 and lasts through Nov. 30.
Gray also announced Thursday he will retire from the Tropical Meteorology Project after 2015. Klotzbach, who has been the forecasts' lead author since 2006, will continue leading the project.