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What Happened to the Hurricanes?

Monday the Washington Post published a story on the conspicuous absence of major hurricanes this year. The reason this is surprising is that every group which predicts the strength of hurricane seasons, including NOAA, said this was going to be a particularly strong year.

"We're predicting an above normal Atlantic hurricane season this year" said NOAA's lead forecaster back in May. He was not alone. As the post reported, 8 independent groups had already made similar predictions. Here's the breakdown of what was predicted to happen this year:

Colorado State: 18 named storms, 9 hurricanes, 4 major hurricanes

WeatherBell (Joe Bastardi): 16 named storms, 12 hurricanes, 5 major hurricanes

NC State: 13-17 named storms, 7-10 hurricanes, 3-6 major hurricanes

TropicalStormRisk.com: 15 named storms, 7.5 hurricanes, 3.4 major hurricanes

AccuWeather: 16 named storms, 8 hurricanes, 4 major hurricanes

Penn State: 16 named storms (range 12-20)

Institute of Meteorology, Cuba: 17 named storms, 9 hurricanes

UK Met Office: 14 named storms (range 10-18), 9 hurricanes

Here's the video NOAA released in May in which they predicted "13-20 named storms, 7-11 of which will become hurricanes, and 3-6 major hurricanes." This was basically in line with the other forecasts. According to NOAA, there was only a 5 percent chance of a below normal season this year:

NOAA updated its forecast in August and changed their forecast only slightly to "13-19 named storms, 6-9 hurricanes and 3-5 major hurricane. That's one less storm, two fewer hurricanes and one fewer major hurricane than originally predicted. The modified forecast still had a 70 percent probability. It was still going to be well above average.

But with the peak of the hurricane season already passed, the current tally is "10 tropical storms, 2 hurricanes" and zero major hurricanes. There are still two months left so it's possible the number of storms will go up, but the chances of this being an above average year now appear very slim. 

In short, nine out of nine groups that make these predictions got it wrong in 2013. It's not the first time. According to the Post, last year "forecasters in April called for an average to quieter than normal season, and it turned out to be a busy year with 19-named storms, tied for the third most on record."


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