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The 2014 Hurricane Forecast Is Sleepy, Thanks To El Niño

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The 2014 Atlantic hurricane season could be a real yawner if early forecasts hold true.

Phil Klotzbach and William Gray released their outlook Thursday, calling for nine named storms, including three hurricanes, one intense. That's far below the average of 12 named storms, including six hurricanes, three major.

The two renowned climatologists say they expect El Niño, the large-scale weather pattern that suppresses storm formation, to emerge by the heart of the season in August. They also note the tropical Atlantic has cooled in the past few months.

"El Niño is coming," Klotzbach said. "It has the potential to be a strong one, too."

Although the Atlantic basin remains in an era of heightened tropical intensity, another forecast team concurs it should be a tame season. London-based Tropical Storm Risk calls for 12 named storms, including five hurricanes.

However, April outlooks can be far off. Several climatologists predicted 2013 would be highly active but there were only two Category 1 hurricanes and neither hit the U.S. coastline.

As part of their subdued forecast, Klotzbach and Gray predict a 35 percent chance that a hurricane will strike Florida, compared with the long-term average of 51 percent. The state has gone a record eight seasons without a hurricane hit.

Klotzbach and Gray, of Colorado State University, are considered elite tropical forecasters; Gray pioneered the development of seasonal outlooks in the early 1980s.

The two had expected to stop issuing forecasts after losing funding from the insurance industry but have since found new money sources.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will issue its seasonal outlook in May. Hurricane season starts on June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

Ken Kaye ___

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