Experts are predicting above-average activity this hurricane season, as Gulf Coast residents and University officials prepare for the possibility of a storm.
The Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University predicted 18 named storms, of which nine are predicted to become hurricanes with four “major” storms reaching Category 3 or higher intensity.
This is higher than the National Hurricane Center’s projections, which include 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
The Tropical Meteorology Project also gives a 47 percent chance of at least one major hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast. The average for the last century is 30 percent, according to its website.
Barry Keim, University geography and anthropology professor and state climatologist, said there are two majorindicators experts use to predict how busy a hurricane season will be: sea surface temperatures and El Niño-Southern Oscillation.
“Sea surface temperatures run through a cycle called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation, or AMO, for 70 years,” Keim said.
Every 30 to 40 years, temperatures change from cool to warm.
“Since 1995, we’ve been in a warm period, and as a result, most years have had hyperactive seasons or seasons above the long-term average,” Keim said.
The second indicator, El Niño-Southern Oscillation, determines how easily hurricanes can form. If an El Niño takes place, upper-air circulation in the Atlantic is disrupted, making hurricane formation difficult. However, La Niña does the opposite — creating highly favorable conditions for hurricanes to form.
When a storm threatens campus, the University’s Emergency Operations Center is activated. Three teams work 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, consistently communicating with news sources and weather authorities until the storm passes.
But sometimes, the safest thing to do is to close the University, said Chair of the EOC Core Committee D’Ann Morris.
“The campus has an opportunity to determine, based on the guidance of the EOC to the chancellor or president, whether or not the institution will close,” Morris said.
Her best advice is to listen to EOC warnings, as emergency personnel may not have clearance to leave during extreme weather conditions.
While the predictions may be alarming to some students, some aren’t surprised at the increased activity.
“That’s pretty scary,” said kinesiology junior Madeline Taylor. “But I guess being down South, we kind of have to expect that.”
But even small storms can bring up bad memories.
“I remember Katrina was my first hurricane,” said kinesiology junior Kristina Hickey. “I say we have to be prepared. We were not prepared for that hurricane.”