NOAA increases chance for above-normal hurricane season

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Forecasters monitoring oceanic and atmospheric patterns at the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) say conditions are now more favourable for above-normal hurricane activity since El Nino has now ended.

NOAA said El Niño and La Niña are opposite phases of what is known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, which is a scientific term that describes the fluctuations in temperature between the ocean and atmosphere in the east-central Equatorial Pacific.

NOAA said that two named storms have formed so far this year, adding that the peak months of the hurricane season, August through October, are now underway.

“NOAA will continue to deliver the information that the public depends on before, during and after any storms throughout the hurricane season,” said Dr. Neil Jacobs, acting NOAA administrator.

“Armed with our next-generation satellites, sophisticated weather models, hurricane hunter aircraft, and the expertise of our forecasters, we are prepared to keep communities informed to help save lives and livelihoods.”

Seasonal forecasters with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center have increased the likelihood of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season to 45 per cent, up from 30 per cent from the outlook issued in May.

NOAA said the likelihood of near-normal activity is now at 35 per cent, stating that the chance of below-normal activity has dropped to 20 per cent.

The number of predicted storms is also greater, with NOAA now expecting 10-17 named storms with winds of 39 mph or greater, of which 5-9 will become hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or greater, including 2-4 major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or greater.

NOAA said this updated outlook is for the entire six-month hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30.

NOAA also said that the current El Nino in the Pacific Ocean has ended and neutral conditions have returned.

“El Nino typically suppresses Atlantic hurricane activity but now that it’s gone, we could see a busier season ahead,” said Dr. Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

“This evolution, combined with the more conducive conditions associated with the ongoing high-activity era for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995, increases the likelihood of above-normal activity this year.”

On average, NOAA said the Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

NOAA’s hurricane season outlook is for overall seasonal activity and is not a landfall forecast.

“Landfalls are largely determined by short-term weather patterns, which are only predictable within about a week of a storm potentially reaching a coastline,” NOAA said.