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MIAMI – In an uptick from the preseason forecast, the Atlantic hurricane season now is expected be above normal, with 10 to 17 named storms, including five to nine hurricanes, the Climate Prediction Center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, announced Thursday.
Two to four of those hurricanes are forecast to be Category 3 or stronger, with winds greater than 110 mph, experts said, in line with the May prediction. Hurricane Barry hit the Louisiana in July as a Category 1 storm.
“We expect conditions to be more favorable for storm development through the rest of the season,” Gerry Bell, the prediction center’s lead seasonal hurricane forecaster, told CNN.
The updated forecast was issued just ahead of the start of the most active hurricane period — the roughly eight weeks that surround Sept. 10, when hurricane season hits its statistical peak.
There is now a 45% chance for above-normal tropical activity this season, the NOAA center said. That’s an increase from the 30% chance in its May outlook.
Just two months into the Atlantic hurricane season, the seasons so far has followed an average path.
Two named storms, including one hurricane, were expected by Aug. 1 by National Hurricane Center experts. Only Barry has made landfall so far this season in the United States.
Subtropical Storm Andrea got an early start, forming on May 20 near Bermuda. That short-lived system made this the fifth consecutive year that a named storm formed before the season’s official start, raising questions about the impact of climate change and whether the time frame should open sooner.
Last year saw an above-average Atlantic hurricane season, with Hurricanes Florence and Michael slamming US coastlines with devastating effect.
An average season has 12 named storms, with six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or greater.
El Niño is dead, favoring tropical development
El Niño, a weather pattern that might have influenced this year’s hurricane season, has dissipated completely and transitioned into a neutral stage, where sea surface temperatures are normal in the equatorial Pacific, NOAA declared Thursday.
That means conditions could become more favorable for tropical development during the second half of this hurricane season, from September to Nov. 30.
“El Niño typically suppresses Atlantic hurricane activity, but now that it’s gone, we could see a busier season ahead,” Bell said.
Neutral conditions are expected to continue through the winter.
Other forecasters upgrade their prediction, too
A near-average Atlantic hurricane season was predicted Monday in an updated forecast by the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University, which issues one of most highly regarded forecasts. This is an upgrade from an outlook released in May, which predicted a slightly below-average season.
A dozen more named storms will form, with six becoming hurricanes and two reaching major hurricane status of Category 3 or stronger, the CSU experts predicted.
This year’s hurricane season is “exhibiting characteristics similar to 1990, 1992, 2012 and 2014,” wrote Phil Klotzbach, researcher in the Department of Atmospheric Science at CSU. Two of those years had below-average hurricane activity, with one near normal and one above-average.
What to expect the next 2 weeks
Forecast models over the next two weeks show no major tropical development in the Atlantic, and no areas of interest for development have been identified by the National Hurricane Center.
Vertical wind shear will increase over the next week, which will likely suppress hurricane development, CSU forecasters say.
“The peak is still in front of us,” CNN Meteorologist Chad Myers said. “The warmest water is still to come. The greatest potential for development lies ahead.”
Now is the time to prepare for the next storm, he said, in part by reviewing CNN’s hurricane checklist.
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