Forecasters update hurricane season outlook

    Forecasters are calling for a higher likelihood of a near-normal or above-normal hurricane season, according to a NOAA release. 

    The updated 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook now expects a 70 percent chance of 12-17 named storms, of which five to eight are expected to become hurricanes, including two to four major hurricanes.

    The initial outlook released in April called for 10 to 16 named storms, four to eight hurricanes, and one to four major hurricanes.

    The average season generates 12 named tropical systems, inclusive of six hurricanes and three major hurricanes. 

    “We’ve raised the numbers because some conditions now in place are indicative of a more active hurricane season, such as El Niño ending, weaker vertical wind shear and weaker trade winds over the central tropical Atlantic, and a stronger west African monsoon,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “However, less conducive ocean temperature patterns in both the Atlantic and eastern subtropical North Pacific, combined with stronger wind shear and sinking motion in the atmosphere over the Caribbean Sea, are expected to prevent the season from becoming extremely active.”

    If La Niña develops, Bell added, “it will most likely be weak and have little impact on the hurricane season.”

    NOAA announced yesterday that La Niña is sightly favored to develop during the current hurricane season. 

    Some Atlantic basin seasons feature below average activity but still result in a devastating storm, like Hurricane Andrew in 1992, while others like 2010 — the third most active season on record — did not feature a hurricane making landfall. 

    In April, the outlook cautioned that while forecasting precision is impossible during the spring, the general public is curious about what’s possibly in store for them.

    “We issue these forecasts to satisfy the curiosity of the general public and to bring attention to the hurricane problem. There is a general interest in knowing what the odds are for an active or inactive season,” the authors noted.

    The 2016 Atlantic basin hurricane season began on June 1 and continues through November 30. The season began before the official date with the formation of Hurricane Alex in January. There have been four named storms since Alex. 

    According to NOAA, historical data indicates that Sept. 10 is the day when tropical system activity is most likely to be occurring in the Atlantic basin due to favorable conditions (warm sea surface temperatures, moist air, and low wind shear). 

    NOAA offers a comprehensive guide on storm preparations. 

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