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UA forecasters predicted strong hurricane season before the storms hit

Several factors help predict season severity
Posted at 7:07 PM, Sep 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-09-21 22:07:55-04

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - It's been an especially brutal hurricane season, but UA researchers predicted how bad it would be before it even began.

They studied factors as far away as the Pacific to predict the hurricane season for the Atlantic.

Most hurricane forecasters did not expect a season so tough it would include a large swarm of very strong storms including two Category 5s---the strongest Hurricanes.
But UA scientists did foresee how rough things would be: Doctors Xubin Zeng and Thomas Galarneau.

Doctor Galarneau says, "If you're a forecaster and your forecast is an outlier you immediately get nervous.  It turns out this year which is the most active year since 2010 the forecast worked out okay."
Doctor Zeng says before the storms hit they started to wonder about their own forecast.

"We got it but that doesn't mean next every year we will be right, but overall we have done a good job in terms of our predictions but some year we are guaranteed to mess up. That's just the nature of predicting the future"
To try to predict the future, hurricane forecasters ask, "How warm is the ocean"?
How strong are high-altitude winds?  Which way are they blowing? 
Doctors Zeng and Galarneau were the first to predict El Nino would not happen in the Pacific this year.
El Nino makes high-level wind stronger. That Pacific effect helps suppress Atlantic hurricanes. But El Nino was no help this season.

For a hurricane to get going it needs to be able to establish a tight, strong swirling pattern in the air. If the upper atmosphere winds are weak the hurricane has a better chance of forming.  If those upper atmosphere winds are strong, it's disrupted.

This page offers more details about their predictions for the season.
They say predictions like theirs can help areas be better prepared for some of the worst nature can do.