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Hurricanes: Atlantic to See Below-Normal Storms this Season, NOAA Says

May 28, 2015 11:02 AM EDT
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The Atlantic is often hit with hurricanes come summertime, but it is likely to see below-normal storms this season, according to the NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.

However, don't breathe a sigh of relief just yet. Experts add that that's no reason to believe that coastal areas will have it easy.

For the hurricane season, which officially runs from June 1 - November 30, the NOAA is predicting a 70 percent likelihood of 6-11 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which three to six could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher). This includes zero to two major hurricanes, meaning ones that are either a Category 3, 4 or 5 with winds of 111 mph or higher.

While a below-normal season is likely, there is also still a 20 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 10 percent chance of an above-normal season.

"A below-normal season doesn't mean we're off the hook. As we've seen before, below-normal seasons can still produce catastrophic impacts to communities," NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan said in a news release.

For example, in 1992 only seven named storms formed during the hurricane season, yet the first was Andrew - a Category 5 Major Hurricane that devastated South Florida.

"The main factor expected to suppress the hurricane season this year is El Niño, which is already affecting wind and pressure patterns, and is forecast to last through the hurricane season," noted Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. "El Niño may also intensify as the season progresses, and is expected to have its greatest influence during the peak months of the season. We also expect sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic to be close to normal, whereas warmer waters would have supported storm development."

(Photo : NOAA)

The NOAA's forecast for the 2015 season includes Tropical Storm Ana, however, its pre-season development is not an indicator of the overall season strength, scientists stress. When it comes to pre-season storms like Ana, they typically form along frontal boundaries in association with a trough in the jet stream. This method of formation differs from named storms during the peak of the season, which originate mainly from low-pressure systems moving westward from Africa, and are independent of frontal boundaries and the jet stream.

Predictions for hurricane intensity will probably be more accurate thanks to upgrades to operational computing, and a higher resolution of NOAA's Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting model (HWRF).

It's curious that the 2015 hurricane season is likely to be below-normal, given that previous research has indicated climate change may bring more intense storms - on the East Coast at least, ones that could even possibly flood the Midwest.

Nonetheless, weather is often unpredictable and despite the below-normal forecast for this season, anything could happen.

"It only takes one hurricane or tropical storm making landfall in your community to significantly disrupt your life," said FEMA Deputy Administrator Joseph Nimmich. "Everyone should take action now to prepare themselves and their families for hurricanes and powerful storms. Develop a family communications plan, build an emergency supply kit for your home, and take time to learn evacuation routes for your area. Knowing what to do ahead of time can literally save your life and help you bounce back stronger and faster should disaster strike in your area."

For more great nature science stories and general news, please visit our sister site, Headlines and Global News (HNGN).

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