1997 Hurricane Season - Weather Research Center - December 1, 1997

Nearly Perfect Forecast for the 1997 Atlantic Hurricane Season Less Than Active Season ends Nov. 30

HOUSTON - Pre-hurricane season predictions made by research meteorologists
Jill F. Hasling and Dr. John C. Freeman of Weather Research Center verified
this year as Hurricane Danny struck the Gulf Coast of Louisiana and
Mississippi back in July.  The team of  meteorologists indicated the
coastline from Louisiana to Mississippi had the highest chance of
experiencing a tropical storm or hurricane this year with a 70 percent
chance.  The next highest risk was the west coast of Florida with a 60
percent chance.  Both of these forecasts verified when Hurricane Danny
made landfall on July 21 and 22.

In addition, the team's outlook called for seven named storms to develop
in the Atlantic basin with four reaching hurricane intensity.  There were
seven named systems that formed, with Bill, Danny and Erika intensifying
into hurricanes. Also, there was a 50 percent chance of having a Category 3
or greater hurricane.  A major hurricane is a storm with maximum sustained
winds greater than 114 MPH.  This verified with Hurricane Erika intensifying
into a Category 3 hurricane with winds of 125 MPH.

The Center has been making these predictions since 1985.  In the past 13
years, the outlook has only missed the highest probability strike area in
two years, 1987 and 1992. However in both of those years, storms made
landfall in the second highest probability strike area.  This is an accuracy
percentage of 85 percent.  The accompanying chart shows Weather Research
Center's forecasts for the number of tropical cyclones in the Atlantic Basin
from 1985 to 1997 versus Dr. William Gray's May 1 forecasts and the actual
number of observed storms.   Note that WRC's forecasts for the number of
storms was exact five of the thirteen years.  However, Dr. Gray's May 1
forecast never matched exactly.  WRC missed by one storm or less seven out
of the thirteen years, while Dr. Gray's forecasts missed by one storm four
of the thirteen years.

       Year            WRC FCST        OBSERVED        GRAY's MAY FCST
       1985             10              11                      10
       1986             11               6                       8
       1987              7               7                       8
       1988              8              12                      11
       1989             10              12                       7
       1990              8              14                      11
       1991              9               9                       8
       1992              6               6                       8
       1993              7               8                      14
       1994              7               7                       9
       1995             10              19                      12
       1996             11              13                      10
       1997              7               7                      11


According to Hasling, since 1900 there have only been 14 years when there
were no August tropical storms or hurricanes in the Atlantic Ocean, which
includes the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.  The last year with no
August storms was back in 1961.  In 1961, the first storm formed on July 20
and the next storm did not form until September 2.  The years with no August
storm activity include: 1902, 1904, 1905, 1907, 1912, 1914, 1919, 1920,
1921, 1922, 1925, 1929, 1941 and 1961.  Nine of these years were El Nino
Years.

Since 1900, there has been 13 years when there has only been one tropical
cyclone (hurricane or tropical storm) in the North Atlantic Ocean Basin
during the month of September.  The last time there was only one September
storm was back in 1946. The years with only one September storm were: 1902;
1904; 1911; 1912; 1914; 1919; 1922; 1925; 1929; 1930; 1938; 1939 and 1946.
The two years without October or November storms were in 1914 and 1930 - both
El Nino years.  A strong El Nino event is probably to blame for this season's
lack of tropical activity.  Strong upper level westerly winds prevailed much
of the season across the tropical Atlantic Ocean.  These stronger winds
prohibited tropical disturbances from forming.