Rough waters ahead

Apr 102011
Authors: Jason Pohl

Waters could be rough and storms could be fierce and plentiful in the Atlantic this summer, at least according to researchers at CSU.

The 28th annual hurricane prediction report, released by CSU specialists last week, is receiving national coverage and raising eyebrows by individuals around the country.

In the report by the CSU Tropical Meteorology Project, William Gray and Phil Klotzbach explain there is an increased likelihood of a major hurricane striking the U.S. this summer.

According to the report available on the group’s website, “the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season will have significantly more activity than the average 1950-2000 season.”

In a phone interview with the Collegian, Gray explained that this prediction is based on the location of warmer water near the tropical zones, a vital element for storm development.

“The United States has been very lucky since 1995. Except for 2004 and 2005, we have only had three major hurricanes make landfall,” Gray said.

At 81 years old, Gray is no newcomer to the field of hurricane research. He worked closely with the founder of the CSU Atmospheric Science Department Herbert Riehl throughout the 1960s and this is the 28th year he has made predictions regarding the Atlantic hurricane season.

“I got into this because I saw signals early on. … Technology and forecasting has come a long way over the past 60 years,” Gray said.

When asked why the 2004-2005 hurricane season was especially destructive, Gray said at fault were the broad steering flow, or jet stream, and winds in the area where the storm formed.The report says that the increased activity and warmer temperatures “have nothing to do with human activity” but are actually due to natural processes.

The team updated its December report based on new recent warming in the eastern Pacific and cooling in the tropical Atlantic; however, this year is likely to be incredibly active.
Gray said that conditions remain favorable because we are in a “multi-decadal period for enhanced Atlantic Basin hurricane activity, which is expected to continue for the next 10 to 15 years.”

This multiple-decade time period is important in understanding how the cycles of water temperatures can take years to change, and the results change, too.

Gray said he and his colleagues issue these warnings for multiple reasons but mainly want to provide awareness about the potential dangers during the upcoming hurricane season and satisfy general curiosity.

“There is a general interest in knowing what the odds are for an active or inactive season,” according to the report.
Accuracy is difficult in forecasts like these, and the CSU team said it realizes this.

Gray and Klotzbach will continuously update their findings. The next forecast will be issued June 1, and two-week forecasts will be issued from August to October.

“The conditions are always changing,” Gray said. “We try to stay on top of it so we can make the most accurate predictions.”

Over the years, the CSU Tropical Meteorology Project’s predictions have been mixed. But overall, it tends to spot the trends and provide an additional and respectable voice to those who rely on storm predictions and warnings.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration also makes predictions independent of the CSU report. Representatives could not be reached for comment.

Hurricane season begins June 1 and goes through November 30. This is when Atlantic water temperatures are warmest, a critical component to storm development.

To see the full report, visit

Staff writer Jason Pohl can be reached at

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