The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its midseason forecast Thursday saying that it expects a more active hurricane season than it originally forecast.
High temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean, the continuing multi-decade active hurricane cycle and the possibility of La Niña reforming all point to an active hurricane season over the next several months, according to NOAA.
Including the five tropical storms that have already occurred, NOAA is calling for 14 to 19 named storms with seven to 10 of those storms becoming hurricanes.
Of those hurricanes, NOAA forecasts that three to five of those could become major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or more.
That’s slightly higher than the May forecast when NOAA called for 12 to 18 named storms with six to 10 becoming hurricanes and three to six of those becoming major hurricanes.
The seasonal average is 11 named storms, with six becoming hurricanes and two of those becoming major hurricanes, according to NOAA.
Gerry Bell, lead hurricane season forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said the annual midseason forecast update is done just as the season’s peak activity begins in August.
Although hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through Nov. 30, most storms tend to form from August through October, he said.
“We expect this will be the 12th above normal season in the last 17 years,” Bell said. The Atlantic Ocean basin is 17 years into a multi-decade cycle of warmer sea surface temperatures and other conditions that encourage tropical storm formation.
Bell said the reason this year appears to be shaping up as an active one is because: the area is still in the multi-decade active cycle; waters in the tropical Atlantic Ocean are the third warmest on record; and it appears that La Niña conditions could redevelop which brings in atmospheric conditions that reduce wind shear.
Wind shear can help limit the formation of storms or hamper their strengthening.
The earlier forecast in May was slightly lower because there was uncertainty about the development of La Niña and about what would happen with ocean temperatures, Bell said.
The NOAA forecast does not address where storms will make landfall or how strong those storms will be since those factors are heavily influenced by local weather patterns and are hard to forecast more than four or five days in advance, Bell said.
However, the Gulf Coast and the southeast coast are more likely to see hurricane strikes during active seasons, he said.
“Now is the time to get prepared,” Bell said. “We’re now entering the peak months.”