Hurricane season 2017: Five questions

1. WHO WILL WE HAVE WEST OR EAST? At the start of the summer when Atlantic hurricanes always appear, some talk of a change to a more westward-drifting pattern. One hurricane specialist even threatened to produce a downward-tilting “horizontal” hurricane track. Other extreme models disagree. What is a “Horizontal” Hurricane track? Do Hurricane experts know? Are there records on the shape of Hurricane tracks? Where does the NOAA come in?

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2. WHAT’S THE GOVERNMENT THINKING? The government models are predicting 4 to 6 major hurricanes this year, and about 20 named storms that could turn into hurricanes. The government estimates about 6 percent to 8 percent of tropical storms will become hurricanes. The NOAA said there could be 15 to 25 named storms this year. “Worst case” scenario: Two hurricanes, Category 3 and higher, and 4 hurricanes. Best case: One or two major hurricanes and three tropical storms. Right now, all government models have a “100-percent” chance of an above-normal hurricane season. But all government models have a one- or two-in-five chance of below-normal activity. Most economists agree with the forecasts. But private forecasters like Colorado State University have differing opinions on hurricane activity. Prediction models are very complex. Analysts say there are multiple reasons for fluctuation in hurricane activity. Newer weather instruments provide a more detailed picture of hurricanes from the surface to the upper layers of the atmosphere. Cyclone Science tracks the status of hurricanes worldwide.

3. WHAT’S THE WEATHER IMPACT? Hurricanes change the winds and clouds in the atmosphere and cause severe weather and flooding. However, the big difference comes from climate. Hurricanes move slowly, and sometimes produce intense rain in the Gulf of Mexico. However, there’s no direct relationship between hurricanes and the rain or thunderstorms that move along their path. There could be more severe flooding in the South, Midwest and Southeast, but less in the Northeast and parts of Canada. Southwest Florida and the Gulf coast, including New Orleans, could see less flooding.

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4. IS THERE A HURRICANE WATCH OR WARNING FOR ANYTHING? NOAA has issued tropical storm and hurricane watches and warnings for half of the Atlantic Basin this year, some of them unusual such as a warning for a category 3 or 4 hurricane in the Northeast. The Coast Guard has issued hazardous weather watches and warnings for a majority of the nation’s waterways. However, most locals aren’t worried at this time, according to the NOAA. The weather is slightly below average because of warmer-than-normal oceans. NOAA has lifted some previously issued alerts and has just warned of a low probability of Hurricane Maria’s striking the East Coast. However, a previous forecast by computer model maker Solutions Research Corporation predicted a weaker storm will strike New England or New York City. STRONG ARCTIC COLD BLAST CONTINUES This month’s polar vortex is expected to bring colder temperatures across much of North America and create more wind in the tropics by the end of May.

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