for National Geographic News
The 2007 Atlantic hurricane season, which officially ends today, has—like last year—failed to live up to the predictions of forecasters.
Now some experts fear the second year of inaccurate preseason predictions will shake the public's faith in all hurricane forecasts—even when a storm is bearing down upon them.
"I'm concerned that the public could lose confidence in the forecasting of individual storms because of the inaccuracies of long-range forecasts," said Max Mayfield, a hurricane specialist at WPLG-TV in Miami and former director of the National Hurricane Center in Miami, Florida.
Meteorologists at Colorado State University and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted as many as 17 named storms in the Atlantic Basin this summer.
But only 14 storms formed between June 1—the official start of the season—and today. The total does not include Tropical Storm Andrea, which formed off the coast of Georgia three weeks before the season's start.
The problem, he said, is that there is widespread public interest in the preseason hurricane forecasts.
"The most regularly asked question I had—even before, How are the wife and kids?—was, What kind of hurricane season are we going to have?" Mayfield said.
But after so many wrong calls, the public may no longer differentiate between tenuous preseason predictions and the Hurricane Center's forecasts for individual storms, he said.
The summer did produce two extremely intense hurricanes—Dean in August and Felix in September—that caused catastrophic damage in Mexico, Mayfield notes. (Read more about Hurricane Dean and Hurricane Felix.)
And conditions were ripe this year for a very active hurricane season, so it's puzzling why it fizzled out, he said.
It was especially surprising that three storms that formed at the season's peak in September—Ingrid, Jerry, and Karen—didn't develop into powerful hurricanes, he added.
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