NOAA Predicts a Below-Normal Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season 

May 22, 2008

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center today announced that projected climate conditions point to a below-normal hurricane season in the eastern Pacific this year.

“Living in a coastal state means having a plan for each and every hurricane season. Review or complete emergency plans now - before a storm threatens,” said retired Navy Vice Adm. Conrad C. Lautenbacher, Ph.D., under secretary of commerce for oceans and atmosphere and NOAA administrator. “Planning and preparation is the key to storm survival and recovery.”

The Climate Prediction Center outlook calls for a 70 percent probability of a below normal season, a 25 percent probability of a near normal season, and a 5 percent probably of an above normal season.

Allowing for forecast uncertainties, seasonal hurricane forecasters estimate a 60 to 70 percent chance of 11 to 16 named storms, including five to eight hurricanes and one to three major hurricanes (category 3, 4, or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale).

An average eastern Pacific hurricane season produces 15 to 16 named storms, with nine becoming hurricanes and four to five becoming major hurricanes.

Among the factors influencing this year’s eastern Pacific outlook are the multi decadal signal – the atmospheric conditions that have decreased hurricane activity over the eastern Pacific Ocean since 1995 – and the expected lingering effects of La Niña.

“La Niña conditions have weakened since February and may become neutral by summer’s end,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the center. “We typically see less hurricane activity in the eastern Pacific when La Niña is active or neutral.”

“The outlook is a general guide to the overall seasonal hurricane activity,” Lautenbacher said. “It does not predict whether, where or when any of these storms may hit land. That is the job of the National Hurricane Center after a storm forms.” 

Bill Read, director of NOAA’s National Hurricane Center, said, “Our forecasters are ready to track any tropical cyclone, from a depression to a hurricane, which forms in the eastern Pacific. We urge coastal residents to have a hurricane plan in place before the season begins and NHC will continue to provide the best possible forecast.”

Eastern Pacific tropical storms most often track westward over open waters, sometimes reaching Hawaii and beyond. However, some occasionally head toward the northeast, and may bring rainfall to the arid southwestern United States during the summer months. Also, during any given season, one or two tropical storms can affect western Mexico or Central America. Residents, businesses, and government agencies of coastal and near-coastal regions should always prepare prior to each and every hurricane season regardless of the seasonal hurricane outlook.

The eastern Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15 through November 30, with peak activity from July through September.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Commerce Department, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and information service delivery for transportation, and by providing environmental stewardship of our nation's coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with its federal partners, more than 70 countries and the European Commission to develop a global monitoring network that is as integrated as the planet it observes, predicts and protects.