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