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NOAA: Atlantic hurricane season still shaping up to be above normal

NOAA’s hurricane outlook for the Atlantic was issued this week, and it seems the season is shaping up to be above normal, having already produced four named storms before the season’s peak from mid-August through October.

According to Gerry Bell, lead hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, atmospheric and oceanic conditions favorable for storm development have materialized, which led to the prediction of an active season. Also, two of the four storms to-date formed in the tropical Atlantic, which is a historical indicator of an active season.

Current conditions are similar to those that have produced many active Atlantic hurricane seasons in the past. These include above-average sea surface temperatures and a strong rainy season in West Africa, which produces wind patterns that alleviate the transition from tropical storm to hurricane.

The issued outlook has declared a 70 percent chance that there will be an above-average season. From June 1 to November 30, NOAA projects a 70 percent chance for each of the following ranges: 13 to 19 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including 6 to 9 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which 3 to 5 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5, with winds of at least 111 mph).

These projected ranges are above the 30-year seasonal averages of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

The updated outlook is similar to the pre-season outlook that was issued back in May, though there is a reduced expectation for extreme levels of activity. In May, the outlook projected 13-20 named storms, 7-11 hurricanes and 3-6 major hurricanes. This change was motivated by the decreased likelihood that La Niña will develop, bringing with it reduced wind shear that would serve to further strengthen the hurricane season. Other factors that were taken into consideration included the lack of hurricanes throughout July and more wind pattern variability across the tropical Atlantic, all of which resulted in slightly lower hurricane model predictions.

Given that the peak of the hurricane season is almost upon us, Joe Nimmich, a FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) Associate Administrator for Response and Recovery, issued the reminder that people remain prepared for hurricanes through November. It’s important that families review their emergency plan, ensure that emergency kits are stocked, and different insurance options have been considered.