NOAA now predicts 'above-normal' Atlantic hurricane season

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday issued a revised hurricane prediction forecast, saying it now expects “above-normal hurricane activity” for the rest of the hurricane season because the El Nino weather pattern has weakened.

Only two named storms have formed so far this hurricane season, which officially started in June and runs through Nov. 30, but we are now entering the peak months of hurricane season.

“The general idea is that we could have more storms this season,” WRAL meteorologist Elizabeth Gardner said. “The wind pattern will be more favorable for hurricane development.”

According to NOAA, forecasters with the agency’s Climate Prediction Center have increased the likelihood of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season to 45 percent, which is up from the 30 percent chance that was part of the outlook issued in May.

According to the weather agency, the likelihood of near-normal activity is now at 35 percent, and the chance of below-normal activity has dropped to 20 percent.

NOAA also said in a written statement that the number of predicted storms has increased with the agency now expecting 10 to 17 named storms, with winds of 39 mph or greater.

NOAA hurricane season update

And five to nine of those storms are likely to become hurricanes, with winds of 74 mph or greater, including two to four major hurricanes that could pack winds of 111 mph or greater. This updated outlook is for the entire six-month hurricane season, which ends in November.

According to forecasters, El Niño is a climate cycle in the Pacific Ocean that has a global impact on weather patterns.

“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. “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.”

The announcement of the above-normal hurricane season forecast has prompted other federal authorities to tell residents in the path of hurricanes to prepare now.

“Today’s updated outlook is a reminder to be prepared,” said Pete Gaynor, acting FEMA administrator. “We urge everyone to learn more about hurricane hazards and prepare now, ahead of time, so that if state and local authorities announce evacuations in advance of a storm, you and your family will have planned where to go and what to do to stay safe.”