In addition to Memorial Day, we also have another special marker on the calendar coming up. June 1st marks the official beginning of hurricane season, which is still vastly unpopular compared to barbecue season and Hallmark doesn’t even offer any greeting cards for it. With that in mind, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration is out with their annual roll of the dice and predictions of how major storms in the Atlantic and Pacific basins will play out. This year, we are told, you should keep an eye out because it’s going to be considerably worse than recent summers. (AT&T News)

More storms are expected during the coming Atlantic hurricane season which should be “near-normal,” after three years of unusually low storm activity, US government scientists said Friday.

The Atlantic could see 10 to 16 tropical storms, of which four to eight could become hurricanes, said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center.Between one and four of the storms could become major hurricanes of Category Three or higher on a scale of 1-5.Wind speed in a Category Three hurricane reaches 111-129 miles per hour (178-208 kilometers per hour), with the potential to uproot trees and cause devastating damage to buildings and homes.The end of the warming climate pattern El Nino and the arrival of the cooling trend in the equatorial Pacific known as La Nina could favor the increase in hurricane activity, said NOAA administrator Kathryn Sullivan.

Saying things are going to be worse is the same as Ms. Sullivan’s description of returning to “normal.” In years past we’ve written here about the NOAA forecasts for hurricane season and the fact that they don’t seem to have much correlation to what actually happens. That’s really saying something when you consider how wide of a spread they’re giving themselves. Ten to sixteen “storms” (which includes tropical depressions and minor squalls which never reach speeds qualifying them as the weakest of hurricanes) is a fairly generous buffer. The other figures are similarly vague.

I’m reminded of the time last year when we interviewed NBC chief meteorologist Bill Karins and spoke to him about this precise subject. I’d no sooner gotten most of my question about the NOAA hurricane forecasts out of my mouth when he scoffed and told us that you really shouldn’t pay too much attention to them. Forecasting complex events such as these months in advance is, from what Bill was telling us, nearly as much witchcraft as it is science. But there does seem to be some evidence that years with a strong El Nino in the Pacific basin produce wind patterns traveling over the Atlantic which can disrupt storm formation.

If things step up even more than NOAA is predicting they’ll have to move the needle significantly before we get into the range of the 2004 season. That was a record setting year in many ways and the state of Florida alone got hit with four landfall hurricanes in 44 days. If we do start rocking and rolling to that extent, you may rest assured that somebody will blame it on climate change, even though those predictions fell entirely flat for the past three years running. But hey… a CNN anchor once seemed to blame asteroids on global warming, so why not?

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