A More Active Hurricane Season Could Lie Ahead, Scientists Warn


Federal weather researchers expect hurricane activity to be greater than normal for the rest of this year’s season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.

The new analysis suggests that an above-average season is substantially more likely than the agency first predicted in May. NOAA now expects up to 17 named storms before the season ends on Nov. 30, with as many as four of those becoming major storms with winds of 111 miles per hour or more.

The forecasters initially suggested a season with a normal level of hurricane activity, with 12 named storms and three major hurricanes. They based that forecast on the continued presence of an El Niño, the Pacific Ocean heating pattern that tends to suppress hurricane activity, and the likelihood that it might persist into October.

But NOAA issued an updated El Niño report on Thursday stating that conditions had returned to a neutral status, which will eventually allow hurricane formation to ramp up. The forecasters at NOAA’s climate prediction center thus raised the likelihood of an above-normal season in the Atlantic to 45 percent, up from 30 percent in the May forecast. The chances of a below-normal season have dropped to just 20 percent.

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While climate change is clearly warming the oceans, Gerry Bell, the lead hurricane forecaster at NOAA, said that seasonal forecasters had chiefly looked to factors like El Niño and oceanic and atmospheric conditions — including the West African monsoon and multi-decadal cycles of hurricane formation — to determine what is likely to happen in coming months. The Atlantic is currently in a cycle of higher activity, he said, and those cycles “completely dominate the record.”



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