What’s a “named storm”? (Hurricane season is here)

June 1, 2017: Welcome to June, the start of meteorological summer, and the start of the hurricane season, which runs through November 30th.

The forecasts for the 2017 season call for an above average amount of tropical storms, due to warmer than average sea surface temperatures, a weak to nonexistent El Niño this summer, and weak vertical wind shear. The National Hurricane Center is forecasting 11-17 named storms, of which 5-9 may be hurricanes, and 2-4 of those hurricanes may be major hurricanes.

You may be asking yourself after reading here or hearing about the forecast: what exactly is a named storm?

A named storm is a storm over the tropics with sustained winds over 39 mph. These are called tropical storms, and when the storms reach this strength, they get a name to help identify the threat as long as it’s around. In the forecast listed above, we may see 11-17 storms of at least tropical storm strength. The number already includes Tropical Storm Arlene, which was a rare April storm.

The next level up is the hurricanes. These are storms have to have sustained winds over 74 mph. They keep the name given to them as a tropical storm. Out of the pool of 11-17 tropical storms, 5-9 of those may become hurricanes. Just like with tornadoes, there are various levels of hurricanes based on their strength. Major hurricanes are classified as Category 3, 4, or 5 storms, with winds over 111 mph (Category 3). Of the predicted 5-9 hurricanes, 2-4 of those may reach “major” strength.

For fun, here’s the list of the names that will be used for the tropical storm/hurricanes this year:

               Click on the image to zoom in.

Again, Arlene has already been used in April, so Bret would be the next storm name up.  Thankfully, we don’t have to worry about hurricanes here in northern Illinois, but you may know someone on the East or Gulf Coast. It’ll be fun to watch from afar to see how the season plays out. The National Hurricane Center usually updates its forecast in August, right during the peak of hurricane season.

-Alex

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This post was written by Alex Kirchner on June 1, 2017

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