Atlantic Seaboard at High Risk for Hurricanes in 2003

According to meteorologist Jill F. Hasling and Dr. John C. Freeman of Weather Research Center, the 2003 Atlantic storm season is expected to be busy for the Atlantic Seaboard with a 64% chance of a tropical storm or hurricane making landfall. The Orbital Cyclone Strike Index [OCSI] has been used by Hasling and Freeman since 1985 to make an outlook for the section of the US coast which has the highest risk of storm landfall.

According to the forecast, there is a 36 percent chance of a major hurricane hitting the U.S. coastline in 2003. Major hurricanes are defined as Category 3 or higher with sustained winds of at least 111 mph.

In the forecast for the 2003 Hurricane season, meteorologist Jill F. Hasling expects 3 storms to make landfall somewhere along the U.S. coastline. According to the OCSI model, the East Coast of the United States from Georgia to Maine to has the highest risk of a tropical storm or hurricane strike during the 2003 hurricane season. The forecast divides the Atlantic seaboard into two sections for prediction, from Georgia to North Carolina and from Virginia to Maine. Both of the coastal sections have a 64% chance of storm landfall. Florida’s East Coast has a lower chance of a land falling storm with a 30% chance.

The United States Gulf coast in the area from Texas to the Florida Keys has a 46% chance of a storm making landfall. According to the Orbital Cyclone Strike Index [OCSI] developed at Weather Research Center; there is a 73% chance of a tropical storm or hurricane affecting the Gulf of Mexico oil leases with a higher chance of a storm forming in either the Gulf of Mexico or Bay of Campeche.

Last October, Hurricane Lili became the first hurricane to impact the US shore since Hurricane Irene in 1999. Lili was the only hurricane to make landfall in the United States last year and made landfall on the Louisiana shore on October 3rd 2002.

In 1999 Texas also experienced Hurricane Bret which made landfall in south Texas. However, the last hurricane to make landfall along the Upper Texas coast was Hurricane Jerry in 1989. One should note this the longest the Upper Texas Coast has gone without a hurricane making landfall since 1871. An interesting note is that two years that correspond to this phase of the OCSI 1961 and 1983 had hurricanes which significantly impacted the upper Texas coast, Hurricane Carla 1961 and Hurricane Alicia 1983.

A secondary forecast of the OCSI model is a prediction of the total number of named storms in the Atlantic basin, including the Gulf of Mexico. The OCSI is calling for 8 named storms with 6 of the storms reaching hurricane status. The outlook calls for a below normal season for number of named storms, with a near normal season for number of hurricanes based on tropical climatology. A normal season would have 9.7 named tropical storms with 5.7 of the storms intensifying into hurricanes.

Twelve years on record have the same phase of the OSCI as this 2003 hurricane season. Out of those years, 9 of the seasons had less than 10 named storms. During this phase of the OSCI, storms form in the Gulf of Mexico or Bay of Campeche over 80% of the time.

Hasling said the OCSI predicts a 73% chance of three or more storms making landfall somewhere along the United States coast. Cuba has a 64% chance of a storm making landfall.

The outlook also shows there is an 18% chance of an early storm in May. There is a greater chance for a storm as late as November with a 40% chance, which would make for another long hurricane season. Coastal residents must prepare each year for hurricane season, which runs from June 1st to November 30th.

The OCSI model is based on the premise that there are orbital influences that are reflected in the global circulation pattern on the sun and subsequently, the global circulation pattern of the earth. The sun's circulation is tracked by the sun spot cycle. Using this solar cycle to make an index, hurricane climatology has been summarized into an index called the OCSI. This index has been used since 1985 to make annual forecasts of which section of North America has the highest risk of experiencing a tropical storm or hurricane. In addition to its ongoing research, the Center also provides storm and hurricane information via the Internet through Storm Navigator. This service helps people navigate weather information on the Internet as well as providing detailed storm updates and related information. All of the Center's projections including past predictions can be found on the Internet, WXResearch Outlook

Background on Researchers: Jill F. Hasling and Dr. John C. Freeman are both Certified Consulting Meteorologist and Fellows of the American Meteorological Society. Both are researchers and founding directors of the Weather Research Center, which is a non-profit educational and research facility, based in Houston, Texas. Dr. Freeman has over 50 years of meteorological experience and Ms. Hasling has over 28 years experience. Both have been involved in tropical meteorology research and have been working together on this forecast method since 1985.

2003 OSCI Forecast for the Atlantic
COAST OCSI Climatology
Mexico 30% 39%
Texas 46% 49%
Louisiana to Alabama 46% 59%
West Florida 46% 70%
East Florida 30% 39%
Georgia to N. Carolina 64% 54%
East Coast of US 64% 32%
Gulf Oil Blocks 73% 78%
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