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2011 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook

Jul 5th 11
By Janine Ketterer

Hurricane season in the Northern Atlantic is upon us — in fact, we’re just over a month in. Thus far there’s been nothing to write home about; however, according to The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), a division of the U.S. National Weather Service, boats in the Caribbean and the entirety of the U.S. East Coast, from Florida to New England, could be in for a wild ride.

On May 19, NOAA released its 2011 Atlantic hurricane predictions and, much like the preceding years, NOAA predicts this year to be a doozy. Its exact verbiage: “The Atlantic basin is expected to see an above-normal hurricane season this year.” But what does above average mean? For the six months from June 1 to November 30, NOAA’s crystal ball sees 12 to 18 named storms. (A storm must produce winds upwards of 39 miles per hour in order to be named.)

Of those 12 to 18 named storms, six to 10 are predicted to become hurricanes, with winds blowing at more than 74 miles per hour and faster. Of those six to 10 hurricanes, three to six are predicted to be “major hurricanes.” NOAA classifies a major hurricane as a Category 3, 4 or 5 with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or higher.

“Each of these ranges has a seventy percent likelihood, and indicates that activity will exceed the seasonal average of eleven named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes,” the NOAA report concludes.

A NOAA article in November 2010 reported that last year’s season was one of the busiest on record. “The Atlantic basin [saw] a total of nineteen named storms formed —tied with 1887 and 1995 for third highest on record. Of those, twelve became hurricanes — tied with 1969 for second highest on record. Five of those reached major hurricane status of Category 3 or higher.”

Can we expect much of the same this year? That is yet to be seen. One month in and there's been only one named storm in the Gulf of Mexico, Tropical Storm Arlene; however, statistics say that August, September and October are the busiest months for storms.

And if hurricanes aren’t enough to get your heart pumping, NOAA also recently released information on its TsunamiReady program. Though not often considered a tsunami-prone area, the Atlantic basin has sustained tsunamis, including a 10-foot high tsunami that hit the Dominican Republic in January 2010. The earthquake that hit Haiti, according to a report by NOAA, generated the tsunami. While NOAA’s two tsunami-warning centers monitor the threat of these waves across U.S. coastlines, NOAA reports, the TsunamiReady program was created to increases public awareness of the threat tsunamis pose, improves local hazard planning and strengthens warning communications between the public, the National Weather Service and emergency managers. There are 84 coastal communities throughout the U.S. — 12 in Puerto Rico alone — that have earned a TsunamiReady designation.

For more information on the 2011 hurricane season or the TsunamiReady program, visit,, or

Tags: Essentials Weather 

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