Hurricane season forecasts: Are all seasons considered busy? - NBC12 - WWBT - Richmond, VA News On Your Side

Hurricane season forecasts: Are all seasons considered busy?

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be a busy one and it seems we've heard this forecast before. Why does it sound like a broken record?

It's that time of year again when meteorologists give their take on what to expect during hurricane season.  All of the forecasts agree that this will be another active year. You may be asking, don't they seem to say this every year?

In a word, yes.

Since 1995, we've been in an era of above average Atlantic hurricane activity.  It's called the tropical multi-decadal signal.  This signal is a naturally occurring cycle in the tropics and is known to produce weather conditions ripe for tropical storm and hurricane formation.

Tropical systems develop and intensify in the presence of warm ocean waters.  Water temperatures in the Atlantic and Caribbean are expected to be above average again this year.  Tropical systems also need light winds in the upper levels of the atmosphere.

Fast moving high altitude winds would shear a tropical system apart and prevent its development.  More often than not, the upper levels winds are expected to remain fairly light this year.

Once these patterns take hold, they can last for decades -- 20 to 30 years or longer.  Right now, we are 16 years into this particular cycle so don't expect a change anytime soon. 

But these above average years don't necessarily bring more U.S. landfalls.  Last year is a prime example. We had a big year -- 19 named storms -- but there was little impact on our coastlines.

Back in 1992, before this busy period began, there were only seven named storms, but hurricane Andrew was deadly.  A monster of a storm in an otherwise quiet year.

Short term weather patterns dictate whether or not these storms will hit land and are impossible to predict until they form. That's why it's best to be prepared and have a plan in place long before the storm arrives.

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