Forecasters Say 2017's Hurricane Season Will Be Worse Than Normal

Forecasters Say 2017's Hurricane Season Will Be Worse Than Normal
via NOAA

A warming climate means warmer oceans. And increasingly, research suggests that warmer oceans mean more hurricanes — and more powerful ones, too.

So not only is Miami set to flood thanks to climate change by the year 2100, the city's skirmishes with hurricanes are likely to become more frequent and more damaging. Case in point: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today released its forecast for the 2017 hurricane season, and it looks like this year is going to be one heck of a ride, thanks to extrawarm temperatures across the Atlantic Ocean and the lack of any discernible "El Niño" this fall, which works to suppress hurricanes.

"The outlook reflects our expectation of a weak or nonexistent El Niño, near- or above-average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in that same region,” Gerry Bell, the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said in a news release.

According to NOAA, there's a 45 percent chance this Atlantic hurricane season is worse than normal. That's compared to a 35 percent chance we'll have an average year and only a 20 percent chance that things are below average. Forecasters say there's a 70 percent shot we get 11 to 17 "named" storms, which means any tropical cyclone with more than 39 mph winds.

While the term "named storm" includes smaller tropical storms, NOAA also predicts five to nine full-blown hurricanes in the Atlantic basin this year, and two to four "major" storms like last year's Hurricane Matthew, which just missed South Florida.

In today's release, NOAA ceded that climate models do show "considerable uncertainty" as to how bad the season will actually be, so take the warning with a relative grain of salt.

That said, the latest forecast is yet another sign that Florida's streak of sunny luck (no pun intended) when it comes to hurricanes is likely coming to a close. Before Hurricane Hermine last year, the state hadn't been hit by a hurricane at all since Wilma in 2005 tore through huge parts of Miami-Dade County. But with rising ocean temperatures, rising seas, and an overall unstable and shifting climate, it's unlikely the state will hit a full decade of good fortune again.

As such, Florida's future makes the cuts the Trump administration has proposed to NOAA's satellite division all the more absurd. In March, Trump's Office of Management and Budget, led by the conscience-less Mick Mulvaney, proposed slashing millions from NOAA's weather satellite division, since that office has conducted some landmark climate-change research in the past.

In addition, that budget proposal suggested ripping away funding from literally every single federal program designed to study or combat global warming. But Congress largely rejected those proposals, and Trump signed a budget May 5 to avoid a government shutdown.

But earlier this week, Trump released his budget request for the following year — and, yet again, he's proposed slashing NOAA's satellite arm by 17 percent. Climate scientists have called the move extremely dangerous, and, given the outlook for 2017 alone, it's hard not to agree.
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Jerry Iannelli is a former staff writer for Miami New Times from 2015 to March 2020. He graduated with honors from Temple University. He then earned a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University.