Updated CCU outlook forecasts higher probability of hurricane activity for 2017 season

According to its latest update, the Hurricane Genesis & Outlook (HUGO) Project at Coastal Carolina University is forecasting a higher probability of Atlantic hurricane activity in 2017 than was indicated in its June report.

Based on climate factors available in late July and early August and projected climate signals in the upcoming months, the new report anticipates a “near to above normal” hurricane season for the remainder of 2017, a change from the “slightly below normal” season projected in June, according to Len Pietrafesa, research professor in CCU’s Burroughs & Chapin Center for Marine and Wetland Studies (BCCMWS) and leader of the HUGO team.

The latest HUGO outlook, calculated recently, predicts that there will be eight named hurricanes this season, rather than the five predicted previously. The new report also indicates the likelihood that there will be four major hurricanes (Category 3 or above) in 2017 rather than two, as was forecast in June.

The scenarios for the remainder of the season are highly dependent on the variations of climate factors in August, September and October, traditionally the most active period in the hurricane season.

“Compared with the June forecast, the August forecast indicators increased significantly in extent,” said Pietrafesa. “The primary reasons for this increase are a reduced likelihood of a moderate El Niño warm phase and continued anomalous warming in the tropical Atlantic Ocean.”

The end-to-end HUGO model system was developed in 2013 by a group of climatological and weather scholars of international standing led by Pietrafesa, a computational fluid physicist and former chair of the NOAA science advisory board and chair of the National Hurricane Center external advisory panel, and Shaowu Bao, a computational, deterministic numerical modeler specializing in meteorology and oceanography and a professor in coastal and marine systems science at CCU and a member of the National Center for Atmospheric Research operational university advisory team. Other members of the CCU team are Tingzhuang Yan, a meteorological oceanographer with a background in statistical modeling of climate and weather systems and a Burroughs & Chapin Research Scholar at CCU and who harvested the new climate data; and Paul Gayes, CCU professor and BCCMWS director, who evaluated the integrity of the empirical climatological data.

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