The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has raised the chance for an above-normal hurricane season due to the end of El Nino conditions. Two named storms have formed so far this year and the peak months of the hurricane season, August through October, are now underway, the NOAA said.
Seasonal forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center have increased the likelihood of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season to 45 percent (up from 30 percent from the outlook issued in May). The likelihood of near-normal activity is now at 35 percent, and the chance of below-normal activity has dropped to 20 percent.
The number of predicted storms is also greater with NOAA now expecting 10-17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or greater), of which 5-9 will become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or greater), including 2-4 major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or greater). This updated outlook is for the entire six-month hurricane season, which ends November 30.
The NOAA also announced that the current El Nino in the Pacific Ocean has ended and neutral conditions have returned. “El Nino typically suppresses Atlantic hurricane activity but now that it’s gone, we could see a busier season ahead,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, in a written statement. “This evolution, combined with the more conducive conditions associated with the ongoing high-activity era for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995, increases the likelihood of above-normal activity this year.”
On average, the Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes. NOAA’s hurricane season outlook is for overall seasonal activity and is not a landfall forecast. Landfalls are largely determined by short-term weather patterns, which are only predictable within about a week of a storm potentially reaching a coastline.