The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its 2006 east Pacific hurricane season outlook — predicting a below average season with 12 to 16 tropical storms, of which six to eight could become hurricanes, including one to three major hurricanes of category 3 strength or greater.
An average east Pacific hurricane season features 15 to 16 tropical storms, with nine becoming hurricanes, including four to five major hurricanes.
“The last three east Pacific hurricane seasons have been below normal, following an overall trend of lower activity since 1995,” said Jim Laver, director of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center in Camp Springs, Md. Neutral El Niño/Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions are expected across the equatorial Pacific during the next three to six months. “Therefore neither El Niño nor La Niña will likely be a factor in this year’s hurricane season,” added Laver.
“At present, the leading climate pattern affecting the east Pacific hurricane season is a multi-decadal signal, which contributes to stronger easterly winds at jet stream level and hence higher easterly wind shear,” said Muthuvel Chelliah, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center lead scientist on the east Pacific hurricane season outlook. Wind shear refers to the change in winds between the lower and upper atmosphere. Higher wind shear inhibits hurricane formation. “Since 1995, despite the trend to warmer waters in the tropical east Pacific, higher wind shear has contributed to fewer tropical storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes,” noted Chelliah.
Most tropical storms and hurricanes that form in the east Pacific generally move towards the open expanse of the Pacific Ocean and do not make landfall. However during any given season a storm or two may affect western Mexico, Central America and the southwestern United States, as was the case with Hurricane Ignacio in 2003 and Hurricane Adrian in 2005.
Despite the forecast for a below-average season, coastal residents are encouraged to be prepared and stay informed because it only takes one hurricane strike to create significant impacts. The east Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15 through November 30, with peak activity occurring during July through September.
The east Pacific hurricane season outlook is a product of NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, National Hurricane Center, and Hurricane Research Division. NOAA’s National Hurricane Center has hurricane forecasting responsibilities for the east Pacific as well as the north Atlantic.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, an agency of the U.S. Department of Commerce, is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of our nation’s coastal and marine resources. Through the emerging Global Earth Observation System of Systems (GEOSS), NOAA is working with our federal partners and more than 60 countries and the European Commission to develop a global earth observation network that is as integrated as the planet it observes.
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