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“Near normal” hurricane season

Better than a highly active season, I guess.

With the Atlantic hurricane season drawing near, the last of a growing number of storm prognosticators, Uncle Sam, chimed in Thursday with its predictions.

Federal forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said there probably would be nine to 14 named storms this year, with four to seven becoming hurricanes.

“A near-normal season is most likely,” said Gerry Bell, NOAA’s lead seasonal forecaster.
Among the burgeoning community of hurricane season forecasters — from veterans such as William Gray and Phil Klotzbach at Colorado State University to new players like North Carolina State — there’s a general consensus that this year will bring less tropical weather than last year’s 16 named storms.

They cite various reasons, such as an expectation of more moderate sea surface temperatures in tropical areas of the Atlantic Ocean as well as the possible development of an El Nino in the Pacific, which could dampen storm formation.

“During many El Nino years, we have had significantly fewer named storms than normal,” said Chris Hebert, the lead hurricane forecaster with Houston-based ImpactWeather, a private forecasting service.

Over the last several decades an average of about 10 named storms have formed each year, but that number has risen significantly since 1995. Most forecasters attribute the rise to an upswing in a long-term, natural cycle of Atlantic temperatures called the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation.

Since 1995, 12 of the 14 Atlantic hurricane seasons have seen above-normal tropical activity.

So don’t rest easy just yet. Preseason predictions are not that accurate anyway. And as we all know, it only takes one well-aimed hurricane to make the season a bad one.

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