According to forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, the Atlantic could experience another above-normal hurricane season this year.
Not too far in the rear view is the 2016 storm season campaign, which produced 15 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes. Most notable was Hurricane Matthew, a major storm that caused billions of dollars damage during its rampage through the Caribbean, devastating sideswipe of Florida, and eventual landfall in South Carolina.
For 2017, NOAA forecasters are calling for a 70% likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms, of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes, including 2 to 4 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, Lead Seasonal Hurricane Forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season outlook is a notch higher compared to the season’s initial extended outlook released in early April by Colorado State University Climatologist Phil Klotzbach, who noted the likelihood of a moderate El Niño potentially taking hold by mid-September, sapping fuel to potential storms.
Strong El Niños and wind shear typically suppress development of Atlantic hurricanes. Currently, climate models are showing considerable uncertainty, which is reflected in the comparable probabilities for an above-normal and near-normal season.
Stay tuned to the forecast models as conditions trend one way or the other.