Active hurricane season is possible
A key seasonal hurricane forecast is calling for an above normal number of storms this year, the first time since 2013 that its May prediction clearly points to an unusually active Atlantic basin.
Atmospheric clues plucked from the surface of the sea and columns of sky led the Climate Prediction Center to the conclusion that El Niño may be a no-show, leaving a ripe environment for tropical cyclone formation.
Thecenter, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said Thursday it predicts 11 to 17 named storms, five to nine hurricanes, and two to four major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher. The forecast includes Tropical Storm Arlene, which formed in April in the faroff Atlantic.
“We are expecting a lot of activity this season,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster for NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “There is a combination of factors pointing to a more active season — El Niño, warmer than average ocean temperatures, wind shear.”
Bell said there is only a 20 percent chance that the season will be below normal. An average season has 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
Early-season forecasts are notoriously challenging with shifts occurring as winter turns to spring. The center will put out another prediction in August that may amend Thursday’s report as more data is collected in June and July.
In April, Colorado State University hurricane researcher Phil Klotzbach forecast a less active hurricane season this year. But he’s since hinted that he may amend that forecast in an updated June 1 prediction, increasing the number of storms to average at least.
AccuWeather, which released its 2017 hurricane forecast the same week as Klotzbach, also called for a below-average storm season. The Weather Co.’s late-April forecast called for an average season. “If El Niño fails to launch, we may be too low with our numbers,” Weather Co.’s chief meteorologist Todd Crawford said in April.