Magazine article Risk Management

A Storm by Any Other Name

Magazine article Risk Management

A Storm by Any Other Name

Article excerpt

Each year, scientists attempt to predict how the Atlantic hurricane season will play out. It is difficult to forecast exactly how often the wind will blow, but two scientists, Dr. William Gray and Phil Klotzbach from Colorado State University's Tropical Meteorology Project, have become pretty good at it. last year, for example, they predicted 18 named storms. At the end of the season, there were 19.

This was not just dumb luck. The previous year, they predicted 11 and there were actually nine. In 2008, they expected 15 and there were 16. The prior season, they went with 17 and there were 15. In fact, the last time they were off by more than two was 2006 when they missed badly, predicting 17 when only 10 occurred.

This recent string of success may make it seem like the season is easy to gauge. It is not. There are so many factors at play. In fact, it is difficult to even pronounce the names of some of the meteorological and oceanic phenomena that Gray and Klotzbach rely on when making their forecasts--let alone determine how they will all interact with Mother Nature. But it is critical to understand factors such as the El Nino/La Nina cycle (a South Pacific climate pattern that affects the amount of storm-destroying "windshear"), the thermohaline circulation (a global ocean current guided by water density and salt content) and the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation (a cycle of warmer and cooler sea-surface temperatures).

With this year's hurricane season only a month away, Gray and Klotzbach are once again predicting an active year with 16 named storms, nine hurricanes and five "major" hurricanes. …

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