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NOAA over head satellite image of Hurricane Isabel beginning to lash the U.S. mainland with its powerful winds taken on Sept. 17, 2003, at 5:15 p.m. EDT.May 17, 2004 — NOAA forecasters are predicting an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season. At a news conference Monday in Houston, Texas, NOAA officials said the season outlook is for 12 to 15 tropical storms, with six to eight systems becoming hurricanes, and two to four of those major hurricanes. (Click NOAA over head satellite image for larger view of Hurricane Isabel beginning to lash the U.S. mainland with its powerful winds taken on Sept. 17, 2003, at 5:15 p.m. EDT. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)

Homeland Security’s Federal Emergency Management Agency officials joined NOAA in urging Gulf and Atlantic Coast states to be prepared for an active season, which runs from June 1 through November 30.

NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Isabel taken on Sept. 18, 2003, at 7:53 a.m. EDT.“The forecast is the result of thousands of hours of work by NOAA and its partners,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., undersecretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “NOAA investments in high speed computers, improved weather modeling and extensive Earth observation systems enable our scientists and forecasters to gather and synthesize information and begin the process of preparing the public to take action.” (Click NOAA satellite image for larger view of Hurricane Isabel taken on Sept. 18, 2003, at 7:53 a.m. EDT. Click here for high resolution version, which is a large file. Please credit “NOAA.”)

“NOAA’s 2004 Atlantic hurricane season outlook indicates a 50 percent probability of an above-normal season, a 40 percent probability of a near-normal season and only a 10 percent chance of a below-normal season,” said retired Air Force Brig. Gen. David L. Johnson, director of the NOAA National Weather Service. Similar seasons averaged two to three landfalling hurricanes in the continental United States, and one to two hurricanes in the region around the Caribbean Sea.

May 16-22 is National Hurricane Preparedness Week.

“Last year three tropical storms and three hurricanes affected the United States. Hurricane Isabel caused 17 deaths and more than $3 billion in damages. We cannot stop these storms, but we can take steps to limit our vulnerability. Awareness and preparedness for hurricanes, and even tropical storms, and knowing what to do to mitigate their devastating effects, are our best defense,” said undersecretary for Homeland Security Michael Brown.

In the central Pacific, NOAA forecasters are predicting four to five tropical cyclones, which is typical for that area. The central Pacific hurricane season also runs from June 1 to November 30.

The Atlantic hurricane outlook reflects a likely continuation of above-normal activity that began in 1995. Since then all but two Atlantic hurricane seasons (the El Niño years of 1997 and 2002) have been above normal.

NOAA scientists are predicting ENSO neutral conditions (neither El Niño nor La Niña) through July. There is a likelihood these conditions will continue through the peak August-October months of the hurricane season. The main factors in the above-normal outlook are the active phase of the Atlantic multi-decadal signal and a continuation of warmer-than-normal ocean temperatures across the tropical Atlantic. These conditions are associated with circulation patterns that favor an above-normal hurricane season.

“Here in Houston, people know all too well that even without land-falling hurricanes, tropical storms can cause damage and death,” cautioned Max Mayfield, director of the NOAA National Hurricane Center in Miami, Fla. “Preparedness pays off in safety.”

“Preparedness is planning in advance by every city, every business, every family and every individual, and then putting those plans into action if a hurricane threatens landfall near you,” Mayfield said. ”We are here in Houston this year to encourage coastal communities and families to prepare now,” Mayfield said.

NOAA will issue an update to this year’s hurricane outlook on Aug. 10, 2004.

The 2004 Atlantic hurricane outlook is a joint product of scientists at the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, the Hurricane Research Division and the National Hurricane Center. NOAA meteorologists use a suite of sophisticated numerical models and high-tech tools to forecast tropical storms and hurricanes. Scientists rely on information gathered by NOAA and the U.S. Air Force Reserve personnel who fly directly into the storms in hurricane hunter aircraft; NOAA, NASA and the U.S. Department of Defense satellites; NEXRAD WSR-88D radars and partners among the international meteorological services.

The NOAA National Weather Service is the primary source for weather data, forecasts and warnings for the United States and its territories. The NOAA National Weather Service operates the most advanced weather and flood warning and forecast systems in the world, helping to protect lives and property and enhance the national economy.

NOAA is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nationís coastal and marine resources. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Relevant Web Sites
NOAA National Hurricane Center — Get the latest advisories here

NOAA Atlantic Hurricanes Database — 150 Years of Atlantic Hurricanes

Monitoring Atlantic Hurricane Potential

Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale

NOAA Satellite Images — The latest satellite views

Colorized Satellite Images

NOAA 3-D Satellite Images

NOAA Hurricanes Page

Media Contact:
Frank Lepore, NOAA Hurricane Center, (305) 229-4404