Expect 4-8 Atlantic hurricanes, NOAA says
A near-normal Atlantic hurricane season is expected this year, with nine to 15 named storms and four to eight hurricanes, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday.
Of those four to eight hurricanes, NOAA expects one to three to be major. The six-month season begins June 1.
NOAA also said it predicts a near-normal season for the Eastern Pacific, estimating a 70% chance of 12 to 18 named storms – with five to nine hurricanes, of which two to five would be major – for that area.
A major hurricane, designated as Category 3 or greater, packs winds of well more than 100 mph. The weakest hurricanes have top sustained winds of at least 74 mph, and named storms have top winds of at least 39 mph.
NOAA officials said uncertainty over whether the El Nino weather pattern will form made it difficult to be more precise in predicting the Atlantic storm season.
"If (El Nino) develops by late summer to early fall ... conditions could be less conducive for hurricane formation and intensification during the peak months (August to October) of the season, possibly shifting the activity toward the lower end of the predicted range,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
The forecasts do not predict how many of the storms will reach land.
Thursday's predictions came as a strengthening Hurricane Bud, churning in the Pacific, appeared poised to bring heavy rain to coastal southwestern Mexico