By Briana Vannozzi
When it comes to predicting hurricanes, the ones that matter most are the storms that hit land.
“And that’s very hard to predict,” said Alan Robock.
Climate experts are predicting a “near normal” hurricane season, which starts today, June 1, and runs through Nov. 30.
“The Atlantic hurricane season will likely produce a range of 10 to 16 tropical storms of which four to eight of those are expected to become hurricanes. One to four of those hurricanes are expected to become major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher,” said Dr. Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster for NOAA.
“The last few years have been relatively inactive with very few that hit land so we’re predicting there were probably more than there were in the last few years,” Robock said.
The U.S. Climate Prediction Center said the season looks like this: 45 percent chance near-normal, 30 percent chance of an above-normal and a 25-percent chance for a below-normal season.
Rutgers professor and climate expert Robock says part of the uncertainty here in the Atlantic, has to do with weather all the way over in the Pacific Ocean.
“If there’s an El Niño, which means the tropical pacific is warmer than normal, that will develop wind that blows across Mexico and across the Atlantic and what matters for a hurricane is how warm the ocean is which causes the storm to develop. But also how the wind changes with height. If there’s a strong sub tropical jet stream, it will blow the top off the incipient hurricanes and that’s what we had last year. There was a strong El Niño, so we predicted there wouldn’t be as many because of that,” Robock said.
But this year El Niño is just about over and experts are forecasting a La Niña. That means a colder than normal Pacific Ocean.
“All the models say it’s going to be a weak La Niña and if that’s the case, that’s conditions for the storms to grow stronger,” Robock said.
“The county definitely in a post-Sandy environment is better prepared,” Sheriff Shaun Golden said.
Like most of New Jersey’s 130-mile long coast, Monmouth County was hit hard by Superstorm Sandy. Sheriff Shaun Golden says the department has been handing out emergency kits and holding regular meetings with residents.
“We’ve done a lot of mitigation with our partners from the utilities — i.e. JCP&L — in order to shore up a lot of that grid for us. In terms of communications we’ve done a tremendous amount to improve communications,” Golden said.
“Theory tells us that probably we won’t have more hurricanes and tropical storms but the ones we have will be stronger so what we have is Category 1 and 2 now it might be a 3 or 4, it might be stronger,” Robock said.
Experts say if nothing else, take away these three things from the start of the hurricane season — be prepared, heed warnings and remember, after all, these are just predictions.