Today marks the official beginning of the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season, which NOAA forecasters say once again could feature above-normal activity.
In a year that has already featured one tropical cyclone prior to June 1 — Tropical Storm Arlene in April — NOAA predicts a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 miles per hour or higher), according to an outlook issued last week.
Of those storms, the forecasters say five to nine could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including two to four major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or higher).
An average season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes. NOAA forecasters say the expectation of above average activity is due to three major factors.
“The outlook reflects our expectation of a weak or non-existent El Niño, near- or above-average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in that same region,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
Strong El Niño conditions typically inhibit Atlantic hurricanes, warmer ocean temperatures provide more fuel to the storms, and above-average wind shear hinders storms from keeping together, according to NOAA.
NOAA cautions that climate models are “showing considerable uncertainty,” and officials say to always be prepared.
“Regardless of how many storms develop this year, it only takes one to disrupt our lives,” said Acting Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Robert J. Fenton, Jr.
Some Atlantic basin seasons feature below average activity but still result in a devastating storm, like Hurricane Andrew in 1992, while others like 2010 — third most active season on record — did not feature a hurricane making landfall.
The 2017 Atlantic basin hurricane season will end on November 30. The upcoming names include Bret, Cindy, Don, Emily, and Franklin.
The season peaks in September, and 80 percent of named storms between 1981 and 2010 have formed between August and October.
FEMA offers the following easy, low-cost steps to get prepared now:
Have a family discussion about what you will do, where you will go and how you will communicate with each other when a storm threatens.
Know your evacuation route.
Tune into your local news or download the FEMA app to get alerts.
Listen to local authorities as a storm approaches.