Atlantic hurricane season forecast: El Niño expected to deliver calmer year

A developing El Niño is likely to bring a quieter-than-average Atlantic hurricane season, top forecasters announced Thursday.

Meteorologists from Colorado State University predict 11 tropical storms will form, with four becoming hurricanes.

A typical year averages about 12 tropical storms, with seven spinning into hurricanes, based on weather records that date back to 1950.

Strong westerly winds spurred on by El Niño — a climate pattern marked by warmer-than-average Pacific Ocean water — tend to prevent nascent Atlantic storms from developing. In its most recent forecast, the Climate Prediction Center said chances are El Niño will make an appearance by the fall.

Colorado State meteorologist Phil Klotzbach said that of the four predicted hurricanes, two should be major hurricanes — category 3, 4 or 5 — with sustained wind speeds of 111 mph or greater.


"We anticipate a below-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the U.S. coastline and in the Caribbean," he added.

Colorado State University meteorologist Michael Bell, a co-author of the forecast, cautioned coastal residents to take proper precautions, whatever the forecast. “It takes only one storm near you to make this an active season,” Bell said.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, though storms sometimes form outside those dates.

Insurance companies, emergency managers and the media use the forecasts to prepare Americans for the year's hurricane threat. The team's annual predictions provide a best estimate of activity during the upcoming season, not an exact measure, according to Colorado State.

The university, under the direction of meteorologist William Gray, was the first group to predict seasonal hurricane activity in the mid-1980s. Gray died in April 2016.

This is the team's 34th forecast. It covers the Atlantic basin, which includes the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

Last season spawned 15 named storms, seven of which developed into hurricanes. It was the costliest Atlantic hurricane season since 2012, AccuWeather said.

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AccuWeather released its hurricane forecast for the upcoming season Wednesday, predicting 10 named storms would form, of which five will be hurricanes. The firm also cited the influence of El Niño and said two to four tropical storm or hurricane impacts are forecast for the U.S.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will issue its forecast in May.

The first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season will be Arlene, followed by Bret, Cindy, Don and Emily, the National Hurricane Center said.

The eastern Pacific hurricane season starts May 15. Eastern Pacific hurricanes seldom have any impact on the U.S. but can hit the west coast of Mexico. Neither Colorado State nor AccuWeather made a prediction about the eastern Pacific season, but El Niños tend to increase activity in that basin.

© 2017 USATODAY.COM


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