The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season is forecast to be more active than normal, with five to nine hurricanes.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts 11 to 17 named tropical storms will develop in the region, which includes the Atlantic, the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, the agency announced Thursday. NOAA predicted that five to nine could become hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher, including 2 to 4 major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or higher.
Hurricane season officially begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.
The upcoming season could be comparable to the 2016 season, the most active since 2012, with 15 named storms, including seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes. An average season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.
The 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, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
Strong El Ninos and wind shear typically suppress the development of Atlantic hurricanes, so the prediction for weak conditions points to more hurricane activity this year. Also, warmer sea surface temperatures tend to fuel hurricanes as they move across the ocean.
“Regardless of how many storms develop this year, it only takes one to disrupt our lives,” said Acting FEMA Administrator Robert J. Fenton, Jr. “Get ready now with these easy, low-cost steps that will leave you better prepared and will make all the difference: Know your evacuation route; tune into your local news or download the FEMA app to get alerts, and finally – listen to local authorities as a storm approaches.”
NOAA will update this outlook in early August, just before the peak of hurricane season.