Despite El Niño, NOAA raises hurricane season prediction

MYRTLE BEACH, SC (WMBF) – Hurricane Season began with a bang, with six named storms, two before the official start of the season on June 1.

The updated hurricane outlook for the second half of hurricane season issued by the NOAA Climate Prediction Center division of the National Weather Service increases the chance of an above-normal season to 35 percent

It also decreases the chance of a below-normal season to only 15 percent from the initial outlook issued in May.

Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the season, which ends on November 30, NOAA's updated seasonal outlook projects a total of:

- 12 to 17 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including:

- five to eight hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which:

- two to three could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)

The numbers are an increase 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.

"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 Gerry Bell, Ph.D., 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. Also, strong early-season activity is generally indicative of a more active season." 

NOAA seasonal climate forecasters also announced 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. However, we don't expect El Niño's influence until later in the season," Bell said.

"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. "Hurricanes often bring dangerous inland flooding as we saw a year ago in the Northeast with Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee. Even people who live hundreds of miles from the coast need to remain vigilant through the remainder of the season."

It is never too early to prepare for a hurricane. For all the information you need ahead of a storm, hop over to the WMBF Hurricane Tracker for an in depth look at the new evacuation zones and how you can prepare your home, family and pets.

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