This was actually a question that both my mom AND my younger daughter asked me quite recently!
In fact, not only did I explain that our 2010 Atlantic Hurricane Season had been quite busy and "above average", but I even proudly stated how I had somewhat accurately predicted in May ( and posted such on our Flhurridcane forecast contest - LOL ), that this season would see:
17 named Storms, 14 reaching Hurricane intensity, 7 becoming Major 'Canes - of which 4 or more would reach Cat. 4 intensity.
To this.....both my mom's and daughters response was..... "well, the season seemed quiet and uneventful".
Such may be the final epitaph for this fading season. Perhaps not unlike the expression "if a tree falls in the middle of a forest, but no one was around...., so did the tree make a sound?" Not to debate the science of that statement, but more importantly the point is somewhat poignant. The prospect of any hurricane season expected to be particularly quiet or particularly busy is of course big news to Weather Enthusiasts. Such news might quite possibly impact planning and resource decisions by various Government Agencies and perhaps a few key large industries. The remaining effect might be to encourage a larger percentage of ( a coastal region ) general public to stock up on food & supplies and "take this year seriously"! Ultimately however, a typical human reaction of apathy occurs after a year such as this one, because Fannie Farmdale down the street ( who just doesnt care much about adiabatic lapse rates or a storm being baroclinic verses tropical ) just figures nothin' threatened her this year- not even close; that and i'm sick and tired of these forecasters warning me about the 'big one.
So, for "most" weather enthusiasts, Emergency Response personnel, and perhaps a small number of educated general public it was quite the hurricane season, as expected. Fortunate and breathing a sigh of relief, conversation and plans will soon start turning toward the holidays. Yet for the majority of the general public, this was another quiet and fortunate hurricane season for them. Hardly any recollection of any storms even remotely threatening or dangerous.
Was it an Epic Fail for any Weather Professionals or organizations to predict that the U.S. Coastline might experience above average risk in the number and strength of land-falling hurricanes this year? In hindsight, it would only be logical to assume that a greater number of storms would naturally pose a greater threat to the U.S., given an increase to the average number of seasonal landfalls. Contrary to some Professional early season predictions however, the U.S. was largely spared ( certainly to the extent anticipated ). The meteorological research community has made gains over the years and the general public has certainly profited from the growing years of storm forecast accuracy. It is interesting to note that two long term forecast characteristics of this season were quite off the mark. The ultimate impact this season could have been far different had the early season westerlies or a long lasting W. Atlantic not materialized. Furthermore, a fairly persistent long wave pattern seemed to oscillate just inside or just off the U.S. east coast. This perhaps aided by a perhaps a weaker or suppressed N. Atlantic ( summer time ) mid level ridge certainly aided in so many systems to recurve harmlessly out to sea. I think it just goes to prove out year after year, that despite our increased understanding of the local field dynamics and greater mechanics of hurricanes themselves, until larger leaps are realized regarding global patterns and can better anticipate larger scale long wave, we really just do not have a handle on forecasting long term impact potential. Though many years of comparison bare this out, once again it is amazing to compare those seasons having 12 or less named storms, just to have 2 or more landfalls with devastating impact, as compared to such an anticipated active hurricane season as 2010, fortunately having relative little impact to the U.S.
"Near term" forecast tools play a vital role in providing a population better ability to cope and prepare for a major event 2-4 days out. No doubt the greatest priority of resources towards weather and climate forecasts need be expended here. At the same time, I remain in the camp that subscribes to open and accessible information, and would be strongly against any attempt to "classify" or deny research regarding our yearly anticipated "Bill Gray-athons" ( or other Professional Hurricane Season forecast efforts ). Once and for all however......shouldn't the media and the public start becoming savvy enough to realize that a active hurricane season alone has little impact on overall risk ( for all areas of coastline ). Beyond statistical data and climatology, we may not know for many years, how to anticipate WHERE "the big bad wolf" may be - 6 months out.
Predictions are fun and we use them to test our own knowledge. Meanwhile for those who take special interest, anticipation itself regarding the genesis of tropical systems further stokes interest, discussion, and challenges further learning about these forces of nature. So, outside the scientific community or perhaps our own unique interest, how relevant should a responsible free press and media make such information to the general public. Should some greater degree of responsibility exist in proper explanation by the media, organizations, and a small number of Weather Professionals? Though not at all newsworthy, what does the message "this will be a near average hurricane season" mean? Yet an equal amount of vigilance still need exist for those who might live in a hurricane prone area nonetheless.
Point is, our society would be better benefited with some longer term advance warning of a greater potential and substantial risk to any given area, rather than conditions 3,000 miles away may be more favorable for storms to form. Who wins if some forecaster nails the number of storms that form this year. Further endorsements might make some person rich or famous, but their accurate forecast and a quarter won't buy anyone I know a cup of coffee LOL. If we are really concerned about the cost of destruction and lives, in part due to public apathy regarding Hurricane preparedness, shouldn't we ( and researchers ) put greater emphasis on asking the right questions? Like I said previously it may be many years until mankind finally has a more finite grasp of climatology, thus permitting us to accurately predict what coastline or area is very likely to be threatened or impacted by a hurricane. We should not "shoot the mailman" when he gets it wrong, or get so fixated on who was more right. While a credible advance forecast might make the evening news, more importantly it could save lives and make a difference.
(Post moved to a more appropriate Forum.)
Edited by Ed Dunham (Tue Oct 12 2010 06:03 PM)