Meteorologist Phil Klotzbach, who issues the Colorado State forecasts with mentor William Gray, said the lower-than-forecast storm total was caused by several factors.
These included cooler sea-surface temperatures than anticipated and upper-level winds over the Atlantic Ocean that prevented storms from intensifying.
Windblown dust from Africa may have blocked sunlight, causing the cooler ocean temperatures, he said. Tropical storms draw their strength from warm ocean waters.
Klotzbach said he and Gray will try to factor in the presence or absence of dust in their future seasonal hurricane forecasts, noting that seasonal forecasts are still an evolving science.
Reason for Thanks
Despite the inaccuracies in recent seasonal forecasts, emergency management consultants still think they are useful.
"Some people don't like them because they say it creates unnecessary hysteria," said Hans Wagner, vice president of Early Alert in Tampa, Florida. The company provides disaster management information and assistance to government agencies and private industries.
"We look at [the forecasts] as a planning tool," he said.
While the company is always on high alert during hurricane season, "when they predict an above-normal season, that always stimulates our clients to take necessary precautions and take the threat more seriously, and that helps us if they are actually threatened by a hurricane," he added.
Joe Bastardi, a meteorologist with the private weather forecasting service AccuWeather, said too much emphasis is being placed on the accuracy of preseason forecasts.
"It's almost like it's turned into theologians arguing about how many angels can fit on the head of a pin," Bastardi said.
"Overall, the nation got off very easy this year and last year.
"We are in a time until about 2020 that hurricane threats will be more frequent and more intense on our coastlines. So instead of saying, Ha, ha, ha, there's nothing going on, people should be thankful that there's not as much going on."
Willie Drye is the author of Storm of the Century: The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935, published by National Geographic.
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