It’s a good news-bad news kind of outlook for spring and summer precipitation. First, the bad news.
Cattlemen in the southwest third of the country, looking for any hope of breaking the drought that has gripped the region for years, won’t find much solace in a recently released forecast for the 2014 Atlantic hurricane season.
That’s because researchers are predicting a below-average hurricane season for the Atlantic basin in 2014, citing the likely development of an El Niño event and unusual cooling of the tropical and sub-tropical Atlantic.
The Colorado State University (CSU) Tropical Meteorology Project team is calling for nine named storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, between June 1 and Nov. 30. Of those, researchers expect three to become hurricanes and one to reach major hurricane strength with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater.
The team bases its forecasts on more than 60 years of historical data that include Atlantic sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures, vertical wind shear levels (the change in wind direction and speed with height in the atmosphere), El Niño (warming of waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific), and other factors.
But the fact that an El Niño event is in the offing is good news for cattlemen. Typically an El Niño means rains for the Southwest and Southern Plains, an area desperately in need of a drink, says Art Douglas, CattleFax meteorologist.
And there’s more good news. According to the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, most of Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, and the northern parts of Colorado and Utah are expected to have near normal or above normal water supplies, according to the April forecast.
However, the parched Southwest is expected to stay parched. Far below normal stream flow is expected for southern Oregon, California, Arizona, New Mexico, southern Utah and western Nevada.
So far, the 2014 hurricane season is exhibiting characteristics similar to the 1957, 1963, 1965, 1997 and 2002 hurricane seasons, all of which had normal or below-normal activity, says Phil Klotzbach, co-author of the forecast.
“The tropical Atlantic has anomalously cooled over the past several months, and the chances of a moderate to strong El Niño event this summer and fall appear to be quite high,” Klotzbach says. “Historical data indicate fewer storms form in these conditions.”
The team predicts that 2014 tropical cyclone activity will be about 60% of an average season. By comparison, 2013’s tropical cyclone activity was about 40% of the average season.
The CSU forecast is intended to provide a best estimate of activity to be experienced during the upcoming season, not an exact measure, and although the overall activity might be less than usual, Klotzbach cautions coastal residents to take the proper precautions. “It takes only one landfall event near you to make this an active season,” he said.
The report includes the probability of major hurricanes making landfall on U.S. soil:
• 35% for the entire U.S. coastline (average for the last century is 52%)
• 20% for the East Coast, including the Florida peninsula (average for the last century is 31%)
• 19% for the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville, TX (average for the last century is 30%)
• 28% for the Caribbean (average for the last century is 42%)
The forecast team also tracks the likelihood of tropical storm-force, hurricane-force and major hurricane-force winds occurring at specific locations along the coastal U.S., the Caribbean and Central America through its Landfall Probability website.
The site provides information for all coastal states as well as 11 regions and 205 individual counties along the U.S. coastline from Brownsville, TX, to Eastport, ME.
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