NOAA Predicts Near to Below Normal Central Pacific Hurricane Season

Emergency Planning is Essential

May 21, 2009

Hurricane Flossie.

Hurricane Flossie on August 14, 2007, south of Hawaiian Islands.

High resolution (Credit: NOAA)

NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center today announced that projected climate conditions point to a near to below normal hurricane season in the Central Pacific Basin this year.

An average season has four to five tropical cyclones which includes tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes. The prediction was issued at a news conference called to urge Hawaii residents to be fully prepared for the onset of hurricane season, which begins June 1.

 “Living on an island in the middle of the Pacific means each person and family should have an emergency plan every hurricane season. It is now time to review these plans before a storm threatens,” said Jim Weyman, director of the Central Pacific Hurricane Center. “Planning and preparation are key to surviving a hurricane.”

The forecast, a collaborative project with the Central Pacific Hurricane Center and NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, calls for an 80 percent chance of a near- to below-normal season. Because of uncertainties in current predictions for El Niño, both a near-normal and below-normal season are equally likely at this time. The outlook also indicates a 20 percent chance of an above-normal season.

Climate patterns similar to those expected this year have historically produced a wide range of activity. Allowing for these uncertainties, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center forecasts the expected occurrence of three to five tropical cyclones in the central Pacific during the 2009 season.

This outlook is a general guide to the overall seasonal hurricane activity and does not predict whether, where, or when any of these systems will affect Hawaii. Once a tropical cyclone forms in the central Pacific or moves into the area, however, the hurricane center swings into action.

Weyman said, “Our hurricane specialists are ready to track any tropical cyclone, from a depression to a hurricane in the Central Pacific Basin, and then provide accurate forecasts.”

The Central Pacific Hurricane Center calls in additional staff meteorologists when a system forms. They continuously monitor the weather conditions, employing a dense network of satellites, land- and ocean-based sensors and aircraft reconnaissance missions operated by NOAA and its partners. This array of data supplies the information for complex computer modeling and human expertise that serves as the basis for the hurricane center’s track and intensity forecasts that extend out five days.

The science behind the outlook is rooted in the analysis and prediction of current and future global climate patterns as compared to previous seasons with similar conditions.

“The main factors influencing this year’s seasonal outlook are the possible development of an El Niño late in the season and the continuing multi-decadal signal. This signal is the combination of ocean and atmospheric conditions that have spawned decreased hurricane activity since 1995,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center.

The Central Pacific Hurricane Center provides email notification of tropical cyclone information and updates. You can subscribe online.

NOAA understands and predicts changes in the Earth's environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and conserves and manages our coastal and marine resources.