Forecasters now expect more tropical systems
But National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters said Thursday the rest of the season could get busier in their updated outlook on what they expect through Nov. 30.
The new forecast from NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, still indicates a 50 percent chance of a near-normal season, but increases the chance of an above-normal season to 35 percent.
The chance of a below-normal season has been decreased to only 15 percent from the initial outlook issued in May.
NOAA’s updated seasonal outlook projects a total of 12 to 17 named storms, including five to 8=eight hurricanes.
Forecasters say two to three of the hurricanes could reach major status of category 3, 4 or 5 with winds of at least 111 mph.
So far in 2012, there have been five tropical storms – Alberto, Beryl, Debbie, and Florence — and two hurricanes — Chris and Ernesto. The National Hurricane Center is watching another tropical low heading toward the Caribbean and a system that recently moved off the coast of Africa.
“We are increasing the likelihood of an above-normal season because storm-conducive wind patterns and warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures are now in place in the Atlantic,” said Dr. Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center.
“These conditions are linked to the ongoing high activity era for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995, Bell said. “Also, strong early-season activity is generally indicative of a more active season.”
The numbers are higher from the initial outlook in May, which called for nine to 15 named storms, four to eight hurricanes, and one to three major hurricanes.
Based on a 30-year average, a normal Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
However, NOAA seasonal climate forecasters also announced Thursday that El Niño will likely develop in August or September.
“El Niño is a competing factor, because it strengthens the vertical wind shear over the Atlantic, which suppresses storm development,” Bell said. “However, we don’t expect El Niño’s influence until later in the season.”
“We have a long way to go until the end of the season, and we shouldn’t let our guard down,” said Laura Furgione, acting director of NOAA’s National Weather Service.
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