Forecasters Calling for “Active or Extremely Active” Atlantic Hurricane Season
Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are calling for an “active or extremely active” 2013 Atlantic hurricane season. In its initial outlook for the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season -- which begins Saturday, June 1 and runs through November 30 -- NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) is forecasting a 70 percent likelihood of 13-20 named storms (winds of 39 miles per hour or higher), of which 7-11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 miles per hour or higher), including 3 to 6 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5 with winds of 111 miles per hour or higher). These ranges are well above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.
“With the devastation of [Hurricane] Sandy fresh in our minds, and another active season predicted, everyone at NOAA is committed to providing life-saving forecasts in the face of these storms and ensuring that Americans are prepared and ready ahead of time,” explained NOAA Acting Administrator Kathryn Sullivan. “As we saw first-hand with Sandy, it’s important to remember that tropical storm and hurricane impacts are not limited to the coastline. Strong winds, torrential rain, flooding and tornadoes often threaten inland areas far from where the storm first makes landfall.”
According to the CPC, the three climate factors that strongly control Atlantic hurricane activity are expected to come together, producing an active or extremely active 2013 hurricane season. These three factors are:
- A continuation of the atmospheric climate pattern, including a strong West African monsoon, that is responsible for the ongoing era of high activity for Atlantic hurricanes, which began in 1995.
- Warmer than average water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.
- El Niño is not expected to develop and suppress hurricane formation.
“This year, oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the Atlantic basin are expected to produce more and stronger hurricanes,” said CPC Lead Seasonal Hurricane Forecaster Gerry Bell. “These conditions include weaker wind shear, warmer Atlantic waters and conducive winds patterns coming from Africa.”
NOAA cautioned that its seasonal hurricane outlook is not a hurricane landfall forecast and does not predict how many storms will hit land or where a storm will strike.
New for 2013
The CPC announced improvements to its forecast models, data gathering and the National Hurricane Center communication procedure for post-tropical cyclones. In July, the NOAA plans to bring online a new supercomputer that will run an upgraded Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) model that provides significantly enhanced depiction of storm structure and improved storm intensity forecast guidance.
Also this year, Doppler radar data will be transmitted in real time from NOAA’s Hurricane Operations Center Hurricane Hunter aircraft. This will help forecasters better analyze rapidly evolving storm conditions, and these data could further improve the HWRF model forecasts by 10-15 percent.
The National Weather Service has also made changes to allow for hurricane warnings to remain in effect, or to be newly issued, for storms like Sandy that have become post-tropical. This flexibility allows forecasters to provide a continuous flow of forecast and warning information for evolving or continuing threats.
Amateur Radio and Hurricanes
Rick Palm, K1CE, editor of the ARRL’s ARES E-Letter, warns that now is the time for ARES members to assess their portfolio of communications equipment and disaster response knowledge. Palm gives several tips for amateurs involved with hurricane operations:
- Monitor major HF hurricane networks during events this season. The Hurricane Watch Net (HWN) on 14.325 MHz is one of several key players. It serves either the Atlantic or Pacific during a watch or warning period and coordinates with the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami. Frequent, detailed information is issued on nets when storms pose a threat to the US mainland. In addition to hurricane spotting, local communicators may announce that residents have evacuated from low-lying flood areas. Other amateurs across the country can help by relaying information, keeping the net frequency clear and by listening. See the HWN’s website for more information. The net works closely with WX4NHC, the Amateur Radio station at the NHC.
- The SATERN Net (Salvation Army Team Emergency Radio Network) provides emergency communication support to the Salvation Army and populations at large. They also handle health and welfare traffic. SATERN holds high profile nets on 20 meters (14.265 MHz) during major hurricanes and has a long history of excellence, discipline and service. Refer to the SATERN website for more information.
- The Maritime Mobile Service Net (MMSN) meets on 14.300 MHz and is composed of hams who serve and assist those in need of communications on the high seas. According to its website, the primary purpose of the net is for handling traffic from maritime mobile stations. The network is recognized by the United States Coast Guard and has an excellent working relationship with that agency. The MMSN has handled hundreds of incidents involving vessels in distress and medical emergencies in remote locations, as well as passing health and welfare traffic in and out of affected areas. They also work closely with the NWS and NHC by relaying weather reports from maritime stations.
- The VoIP SKYWARN and Hurricane Net operates by combining both the EchoLink and IRLP linked repeater networks, while handling critical wide area communications during major severe weather and tropical events. These operations have gained national stature in recent years and are a critical partner with WX4NHC. Whenever tropical weather is imposing a threat to the US mainland and certain other areas of interest, the VoIP WX net will be fully operational. See the VoIP SKYWARN and Hurricane Net website for more information.
Palm said that during hurricane events, there are usually two or three regional nets (usually on 40 or 20 meters) that spring to prominence as major key assets to the disaster response on an ad hoc basis. “Watch for these nets, as well as the nationally recognized networks described above, this season,” he advised. “Don’t transmit on their frequencies unless you are absolutely sure you have something substantive to add, and then only under the direction of the net control station.”
ARRL Emergency Preparedness Manager Mike Corey, KI1U, added that when ARES activates in response to any tropical event, it is crucial that information flows up through the Section and is reported to Headquarters. “These reports allow us to develop the situational awareness and disaster intelligence that is required for us as an organization to support the Sections that are impacted.” he explained. “In this way, we are able to respond to relevant requests from the media and finally to coordinate with the governmental and non-governmental organizations. This information also allows us to make the decision at Headquarters on whether to stand up the ARRL HQ Emergency Response Team to support and coordinate the operations.”
Corey noted that in July, the ARRL will host a webinar on the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season. Details will be posted on the ARRL website and in the June issue of the ARES E-Letter, as well as The ARRL Letter. All those interested in public service and disaster communications are invited to participate.
If you are interested in public service, please be sure to check out the monthly ARES E-Letter. ARRL members can elect to receive this monthly newsletter free of charge via e-mail by clicking the “Edit Your Profile” link on the ARRL website, and then clicking “Edit E-mail Subscriptions.” Twitter users can also subscribe to the ARRL EmComm Twitter feed for the latest updates.