Wilkens Weather’s annual spring outlook includes a forecast for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season. This spring, our meteorologists predicted a near normal 2017 Atlantic hurricane season with 12 named storms, including five hurricanes.
One of the key parameters factored into each year’s tropical outlook is the long-range forecast of the El Niño – Southern Oscillation (ENSO). When our 2017 tropical outlook was initially released, long-range forecast models indicated a higher likelihood that an El Niño would develop than is currently being seen in recent climate models.
In late April, there was about a 50% likelihood that El Niño would develop over the tropical Pacific in the late summer months, extending into September. However, the most recent climate model issued by the International Research Institute for Climate and Society at Columbia University now projects a 35-45% likelihood of an El Niño phase developing over the next several months. With consideration to the updated ENSO forecast, Wilkens Weather has increased their 2017 Atlantic tropical outlook from 12 to 14 named storms, and 3 major hurricanes.
Since an El Niño phase in the central Pacific Ocean can produce a harsh environment for tropical development in the Atlantic basin, a reduced probability yields an increased chance of hurricanes in the North Atlantic. There is also consideration that the time frame for El Nino developing was before the peak of Atlantic hurricane season. Therefore, a lesser chance of El Nino would give a greater chance to more favorable atmospheric conditions for hurricanes during the peak season.
(Author’s Note: this forecast does not include Tropical Storm Arlene, which formed during the month of April before the official start of hurricane season. TS Arlene was only the second tropical storm on record during the satellite era to form during April in the Atlantic basin.)