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NOAA Updates Hurricane Forecasts, Predicts Busy Peak Ahead

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has revised its hurricane prediction from May, including a slightly lower chance of an above-average season and fewer named storms.

A palm tree with its branches being blown sideways in strong winds.
(TNS) — It’s been a quiet hurricane season so far, but NOAA says a busy peak is ahead.

The agency’s mid-season forecast actually dipped a little: 14 to 20 named storms, with 6 to 10 developing into hurricanes and 3 to 5 of those strengthening into major storms of Category 3 and up.

In a Thursday news briefing, the administration announced a slightly decreased chance for an above-average season, from 65% to a 60% chance of an above-average season.

In the agency’s first prediction of the season, in May, it suggested the Atlantic could see 14 to 21 named storms, 6 to 10 of which could grow into hurricanes and 3 to 6 that could develop into major hurricanes.

The agency lopped one storm off its prediction — and lowered its chances of an active season — mainly because of lower ocean temperatures.

Matthew Rosencrans, lead hurricane season outlook forecaster for NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said the entire northern Atlantic and tropics are still warmer than normal, but there are periods when some patches are slightly lower than normal. Emphasis on slightly — the difference is between zero and one quarter of a degree below normal.

“That was one of the points that really caught the team’s eye and our attention in really backing off that higher end,” he said. “Let’s say a wave comes off of Africa and it runs into one of those colder patches. It might not develop as fast or as strong.”

So far this season there have only been three named storms. Tropical Storm Alex formed near the Bahamas after drenching South Florida the first weekend of June. Tropical Storms Bonnie and Colin briefly formed for a day each in early July, over the Caribbean and the Carolinas, respectively.

The quiet start to this season isn’t unusual, despite the track record of the last few years. August and September are the peak of the season, when the most storms form.

Based on NOAA’s predictions, that means we could see 11 to 17 more named storms in the next four months, before the season wraps up on Nov. 30. Rosencrans pointed to 2021, which also saw no storms for about a month in July, but from August onward there were two to three storms forming a week.

“You can get very active years with these kinds of lulls in them,” he said.

NOAA has also seen signs that La Nina, the weather phenomenon associated with more and stronger storms in the Atlantic, is ramping up into “that favorable state.”

One factor that doesn’t play into the rest of the season: Saharan dust, which floats off the coast of Africa and fills the skies across the Atlantic, stymieing storm development, causing brilliant sunsets and aggravating lung conditions.

Rosencrans said that this dust usually peaks in July and fades away by August and September, the peak of the season.

”Truly the Saharan air layer can play a larger role in some of the early season formations really hampering some of those,” he said, “but once you get to the core of the season it really isn’t as much of a factor.”

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