Though more and more private companies are jumping aboard the seasonal tropical forecasting bandwagon in recent years, there are two sources I trust the most for the Atlantic - Colorado State University, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Colorado State paved the way for tropical forecasting, when Dr. William Gray - truly a pioneer in the field - began issuing the forecasts several years ago. Based on a combination of factors ranging from climatology to Pacific and Atlantic wind patterns, to conditions in Africa and - something Dr. Gray lead the way on - multi-decadal changes in ocean temperature and salinity, seasonal forecasts for tropical activity can be made. In recent years, Dr. Phillip Klotzbach has joined Dr. Gray in these forecasts from Colorado State - Dr. Klotzbach is a Massachusetts native!
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is the government branch that the National Weather Service falls under, and began issuing tropical seasonal forecasts several years after Dr. Gray and his team. Nonetheless, NOAA houses some of the nation's top scientists using top technology. So, it makes sense that we should reference both team's forecasts when looking to the 2011 tropical season, and, this year, they have a lot in common. Both are forecasting a more active year than normal.
- NOAA: 12-18 named storms CSU: 16 named storms
- NOAA: 6-10 become hurricanes CSU: 9 become hurricanes
- NOAA: 3-6 become major (Cat. 3+) CSU: 5 become major
- CSU predicts a 48% chance of US East Coast strike (well above normal)
It will, undoubtedly, be an interesting year in the Tropical Atlantic.