Houston Matters

Understanding How Hurricane Seasons Are Forecast

How does NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center predict how many storms we’re likely to see — and are they usually right?

An infrared satellite image shows Hurricane Harvey just prior to making landfall on Aug. 25, 2017.

You’ve probably heard by now that NOAA – the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration – is forecasting ten to 16 named storms during the current hurricane season, with five to nine hurricanes, one to four of which could be “major” hurricanes.

Dr. Gerry Bell, lead hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, says there are no strong climate signals to indicate this season will be either extremely active or extremely weak. In other words, we should expect a near to slightly above normal season.

But what are those signals, exactly? How do folks at the climate prediction center predict how many storms we’re likely to see? And are they usually right?

Dr. Bell explains the science of hurricane season prediction to Houston Matters host Craig Cohen.

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