Federal scientists yesterday increased their forecast for the number of hurricanes that may strike the U.S. this year, upgrading the warning level of the Atlantic hurricane season from “near-normal” to “above normal.”
The announcement comes as Hurricane Dora spins through the Pacific Ocean, passing far south of Hawaii but still contributing to a natural disaster on the island of Maui by fanning deadly flames in a series of wildfires there.
Hurricane forecasts are generated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)’s Climate Prediction Center — a division of the National Weather Service.
The latest change comes because forecasters believe that current ocean and atmospheric conditions, such as record-warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures, are likely to counterbalance the usually limiting atmospheric conditions associated with the ongoing El Nino event.
Accordingly, NOAA forecasters have increased the likelihood of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season to 60% (increased from the outlook issued in May, which predicted a 30% chance). The likelihood of near-normal activity has decreased to 25%, down from the 40% chances outlined in May's outlook. This new update gives the Atlantic a 15% chance of seeing a below-normal season.
The Atlantic basin has experienced an active start to the hurricane season with five storms that have reached at least tropical storm strength, including one hurricane already. An average hurricane season produces 14 named storms, of which seven become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.
In comparison, NOAA’s update to the 2023 outlook — which covers the entire six-month hurricane season that ends on Nov. 30 — calls for 14-21 named storms (winds of 39 mph or greater), of which 6-11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or greater). Of those, 2-5 could become major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or greater).