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New Model Predicts Number of Tropical Cyclones that Could Hit New York

This year there's a 19 percent probability for one or more storms hitting the state, according to Stony Brook University professors.

by Patricia Kitchen, Newsday / April 22, 2015
NOAA's GOES-13 satellite captured this image of Post-Tropical Sandy rolling inland on Oct. 30, 2012. (NOAA/NASA GOES Project)

(TNS) — A new prediction model tailored to forecast the number of tropical cyclones that could hit New York state in a given season has been developed by three Stony Brook University professors.

For the coming Atlantic hurricane season, June 1 through Nov. 30, their forecast is for below-normal activity for tropical storms and depressions, hurricanes and post-tropical storms.

Over the past 35 years, the number of storms hitting the state has run from zero to two a year, said Hye-Mi Kim, assistant professor in the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences.

This year there's a 19 percent probability, with 43 percent being the average, for one or more storms hitting the state, said Kim, who developed the new forecast approach with professors Edmund K.M. Chang and Minghua Zhang of the School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences. Their article on the model was posted Thursday on "Weather and Forecasting," an online journal of the American Meteorological Society.

Their prediction, issued in February with a June update, is in keeping with a broader Colorado State University outlook released April 9. The outlook indicates a well-below average Atlantic-basin hurricane season, based in part on a likely moderate to strong El Niño event, the warming of waters in the tropical Pacific, which can ultimately influence weather worldwide. Historically, El Niño is associated with the formation of fewer tropical storms in the Atlantic.

Looking at New York, there's a high correlation between Pacific sea surface temperatures and the number of tropical cyclones that hit the state, Chang told attendees of the meteorological society's annual meeting in January.

Development of the Stony Brook model was funded to the tune of about $18,000, by the New York State Resiliency Institute for Storms & Emergencies, created in the wake of superstorm Sandy, Kim said. Forecasts for the state in coming years would be dependent on possible funding, she said.

Although Colorado State and NOAA's Climate Prediction Center make annual calls on expected hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin, a more targeted forecast for a wider range of storms would be helpful to emergency managers in New York, the article says. "Even a perfect basin-wide forecast is of limited value" for New York, as the correlation between state and basin-wide statistics is low, the article says.

In the past 35 years, New York has been hit with 18 tropical cyclones, just one of them — Gloria in 1985 — technically a hurricane, Chang said. A hurricane is a tropical cyclone with sustained surface winds of at least 74 mph. All but two "provided high-impact weather," he said, such as high winds, heavy precipitation and storm surge.

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