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Meet the Colorado Scientists Famous for Predicting Hurricanes

Every April, a team of researchers at CSU puts out one of the most respected forecasts for hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean.

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Located almost a thousand miles from the nearest ocean, Fort Collins isn’t in danger of being devastated by hurricanes anytime soon. Nevertheless, research conducted in the northern Colorado city has been giving those who live on the East Coast an idea of how wet and windy their summers might be for more than three decades. In 1984, Colorado State University tropical meteorology professor Bill Gray found that hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean declined during El Niño years. Recognizing such patterns, along with fancy statistical modeling, allowed him to do something considered far-fetched at the time: forecast the severity of the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs June through November. He released his first report that year, and although Gray died in 2016, CSU professors Phil Klotzbach and Michael Bell carry on his legacy. This month, the university will publish the 36th edition of the 30- to 40-page prediction, a resource the media and public can use to gauge how many hurricanes they might expect in 2019. Klotzbach and Bell have fine-tuned their predecessor’s model, incorporating new discoveries gathered through data mining. The result is a crystal ball so accurate it’s off by only about two hurricanes per year, giving the landlocked storm seers a record even Nostradamus would envy.

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