COLLEGE PARK, Md. — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration dropped its forecast Thursday for the Atlantic hurricane season, predicting five to nine hurricanes will form.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 through November, with August and September generally the busiest months.
The NOAA forecast, done with the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, predicts a 40% chance of a near-normal season, a 30% chance of an above-normal season and a 30% chance of a below-normal season.
NOAA is forecasting a range of 12 to 17 total named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher). Of those, five to nine could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including one to four major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA has a 70% confidence in these ranges.
“Thanks to the Commerce Department and NOAA’s critical investments this year in scientific and technological advancements in hurricane modeling, NOAA will be able to deliver even more accurate forecasts, helping ensure communities have the information they need to prepare for and respond to the destructive economic and ecological impacts of Atlantic hurricanes,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo.
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NOAA’s forecast follows annual predictions from Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project. It released its first forecast for the season, calling for slightly below-average activity, in large part due to current neutral conditions for the El Niño Southern Oscillation.
The oscillation is a reoccurring climate pattern originating across the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean which affects weather across the globe and has three phases; neutral, El Niño, and La Niña.
Colorado State predicts there will be 13 named storms, with six hurricanes and two major hurricanes that are Category 3 or higher. That is slightly below the annual average of 14 storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
But Colorado State’s forecast, now in its 40th year, came with a qualifier: There is uncertainty as to how strong an El Niño would be, if it does develop.
El Niño traditionally inhibits hurricane activity in the Atlantic, whereas La Niña or neutral conditions create a more favorable environment for tropical storm development, CNN reported.
“A big wild card with this season, though, is the extremely warm Atlantic that we have,” Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science at CSU, told CNN.
“If a robust El Niño does not develop, the potential still exists for a busy Atlantic hurricane season, the CSU team wrote in its forecast. “Larger-than-normal uncertainty exists with this outlook. We anticipate a near-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean.”