Today's Trends: 2010 Hurricane Prediction & 40-Year History

The total number of hurricanes spawned from the Atlantic since 1970 is 239. The average annual number of hurricanes is approximately 6 for this forty-year period. The highest number occurred in 2005 (15 storms) and the lowest in 1982 (two storms). Interestingly, by looking at decades we see that the average number of storms per year has been trending higher.

In the seventies the average number of hurricanes recorded was approximately five per year. This average remained relatively steady throughout the eighties but grew by one to an average of six per year in the nineties and now stands at approximately seven per year.

Within the Gulf of Mexico, hurricanes can be quite disruptive to the oil and gas industry. During the 2005 hurricane season that included Katrina and Rita, the storms took out 113 platforms and damaged 457 pipelines. The repairs required to bring production and processing back to normalized levels took years. Last year was a relatively benign season (just 3 hurricanes with none touching land).

Based on historical patterns over the past 40 years, the frequency of storms ranging from four to nine per year has a 75% probability of occurring. The chances of 3 or fewer hurricanes in any given year is 17% and the odds of having ten or more storms is nearly 8%.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center (CPC) is looking for above normal activity in the Atlantic during the 2010 hurricane season. Specifically, NOAA is has projected a 70% chance that the season produces between 8 to 14 hurricanes.

Given the great deal of uncertainty and unpredictability associated with long-term weather patterns, the NOAA's May projections have been incorrect in three of the past four years. The conservative National Center for Public Poilicy Research has poked fun at the government agency's ability to predict hurricane activity by offering its own prediction of 6 to 8 hurricanes based on dice thrown by a chimpanzee. Time will tell who is more accurate. But 40 years worth of data suggests the odds favor the monkey’s predictions for 2010.


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