2017 Atlantic hurricane season begins

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IN SPACE - SEPTEMBER 24: In this satellite image from NOAA taken at 7:45 am EDT, Hurricane Rita is shown after making landfall over the Texas and Louisiana coast September 24, 2005. Rita has slowed to a Category Two hurricane as it churns over land. (Photo by NOAA via Getty Images)

The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins today and runs through November 30.

Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center say the Atlantic could see another above-normal hurricane season this year.

For the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, forecasters predict a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 35 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 20 percent chance of a below-normal season.

Forecasters predict a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher). An average season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

These numbers include Tropical Storm Arlene, a rare pre-season storm that formed over the eastern Atlantic in April.

“The outlook reflects our expectation of a weak or non-existent El Nino, near- or above-average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in that same region,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Strong El Ninos and wind shear typically suppress development of Atlantic hurricanes, so the prediction for weak conditions points to more hurricane activity this year. Also, warmer sea surface temperatures tend to fuel hurricanes as they move across the ocean.

However, the climate models are showing considerable uncertainty, which is reflected in the comparable probabilities for an above-normal and near-normal season.

 

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