Central Pacific Hurricane Center predicts near- to above-normal 2017 hurricane season

The Central Pacific Hurricane Center released its outlook for the 2017 Central Pacific Hurricane Season, which begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

The outlook calls for 5 to 8 tropical cyclones to either develop or cross into the Central Pacific with a 40% chance for an above-normal season, a 40% chance for a normal season, and a 20% chance for a below-normal season. An average season has 4 to 5 tropical cyclones, which include tropical depressions, tropical storms, and hurricanes.

Forecasters say if El Niño develops, activity could be at the upper end of the range. El Niño decreases the vertical wind shear over the tropical central Pacific, which favors the development of more and stronger tropical cyclones. El Niño also favors more westward-tracking storms from the Eastern Pacific into the Central Pacific.

Pacific Tropical Cyclone Names

Tropical cyclones are named based on the basin of origin. Thus is a tropical cyclone begins its life cycle in the Eastern Pacific, it will be given a name from the Eastern Pacific names list. When a tropical cyclone has its origins in the Central Pacific, a Central Pacific name is assigned.

The next name to be used in the Central North Pacific will be Walaka.

“El Niño has been a strong signal that we would actually get an above-normal season. This year, we’re looking like we’re going to be in possibly a slight El Niño. It could go a little stronger, which is actually leading to the forecast, which is slightly above normal,” explained meteorologist Charlie Woodrum. “There’s a lot of different possible outcomes, and it could be the slightest little change that could change those outcomes.”

Right now, Woodrum says, we’re in an ENSO Neutral condition, between El Niño and La Niña.

“It would only take a slight bit of warming in the equatorial Pacific that would get us pushed up into El Niño,” he said. “If it’s warmer than normal, that’s an indicator of El Niño. If it’s cooler than normal, that’s an indicator of La Niña. In this case, it’s right around normal.”

Forecasters stress that the outlook is a general guide to the overall seasonal hurricane activity in the Central Pacific basin and does not predict whether, or how many, of these systems will affect Hawaii.

“We could have a very active hurricane season and have a lot of systems come through the Central Pacific, but if none of those impact the Hawaiian islands, as residents here, we’re not going to consider that as very active,” Woodrum said. “At the same time, we could have a not very active season at all where there’s only one hurricane, but if that hurricane makes landfall on the Hawaiian islands, that’s a major season for us. Whether that happens or not, we can’t really indicate that.”

The Central Pacific basin may also be shifting toward a longer-term period of increased tropical cyclone activity, in response to changes in global sea surface temperatures patterns in both the Atlantic and Pacific Ocean which historically last anywhere from 25-40 years.

New this year, the Hawaii Emergency Management Agency is asking everyone to double the amount of supplies in their hurricane kits. Instead of packing just one week’s worth of food and supplies, you’re advised to plan for two.

Emergency officials say that’s because most of our supplies come in through Honolulu Harbor, and it would take two weeks after a major storm hits to get more supplies shipped here.

“That’s how we got the two weeks, as far as 14 days, getting public resilience to handle that,” said Vern Miyagi, Hawaii Emergency Management Agency administrator. “At the same time, we need to coordinate all the efforts to resurrect the port operations, and that’s what we’re doing right now.”

“The 2017 hurricane season marks the 25th anniversary of Hurricane Iniki, which brought life-changing impacts that have lasted more than a generation,” said Chris Brenchley, director of NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center. “Considering the devastation we saw from Iniki, as well as the more recent impacts from Hurricane Iselle and Tropical Storm Darby, I remind everyone that now is the time to make sure you and your family are prepared for hurricane season. Become weather-ready by signing up for weather alerts, developing and practicing a family emergency plan, and building an emergency kit before hurricane season begins.”

Your hurricane kit should include 14 days of non-perishable food and water, as well as a radio, flashlight, extra batteries, and a first-aid kit.

View a full checklist here.

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