NEW YORK (Reuters) - U.S. weather forecasters expect “above normal” activity in the current Atlantic hurricane season, revising an earlier forecast of “near normal” activity, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Thursday.
The earlier forecast in May reflected the presence of El Nino, the climate phenomenon that warms the Pacific Ocean and tends to prevent storms from developing in the Atlantic.
Since then, El Nino has abated, making for conditions that increase the likelihood of hurricanes forming, forecasters at the NOOA’s Climate Prediction Center said in a statement issued as the hurricane season enters its peak months.
NOAA forecasters now expect 10 to 17 named storms, up from the previous estimate of 9 to 15. Of those, about half will become hurricanes. To be classified as a hurricane, a storm must carry winds of at least 74 mph (119 kph).
Two to four major storms in the June-to-November season are expected to pack Category 3 winds of 111 mph (179km) or greater.
So far this year there have been two named storms in the Atlantic. Subtropical storm Andrea dissipated shortly after forming in May. Barry made landfall in Louisiana on July 13 as a Category 1 hurricane.
Last year brought 15 named storms, including Michael, which struck the Florida Panhandle in October with winds of 110 mph, killing at least 29.
Florence made landfall in September as a relatively weak Category 1 hurricane but brought devastating flooding to North and South Carolina. At least 51 people were killed.
Reporting by Angela Moore in New York; Editing by Frank McGurty and Dan Grebler