by Staff Writers
Miami (AFP) Aug 11, 2016
More storms are expected to roil the Atlantic this hurricane season, with as many as 17 big ones, US officials said Thursday in an updated midseason forecast.
"The season is still expected to be the most active since 2012," said the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Its earlier forecast, issued in May, called for 10 to 16 big storms, including four to eight hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.
Now, as the peak of the storm season approaches, experts expect a "70 percent chance of 12 to 17 named storms, of which five to eight are expected to become hurricanes."
Two to four of those could be "major hurricanes," meaning that they could reach Category Three or higher, with wind speeds of 111 to 129 miles per hour (178 to 208 kilometers per hour), NOAA added in a statement.
"We've raised the numbers because some conditions now in place are indicative of a more active hurricane season, such as El Nino ending, weaker vertical wind shear and weaker trade winds over the central tropical Atlantic, and a stronger west African monsoon," said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.
The ocean warming trend of El Nino has contributed to a less active hurricane season in the past few years.
El Nino ended in July, and the opposite trend of La Nina -- if it develops -- "will most likely be weak and have little impact on the hurricane season," added Bell.
So far this year, there have been two hurricanes in the Atlantic -- Alex, which originated in the North Atlantic in January, and Earl, which triggered landslides that killed dozens of people in Mexico.
The three other tropical storms were Bonnie, which made landfall in South Carolina; Colin, which hit western Florida; and Danielle in eastern Mexico.
"As we move into the peak of hurricane season, when hurricanes are most frequent and often at their strongest, NOAA urges coastal residents to make sure they have their hurricane preparedness plans in place and to monitor the latest forecasts," said NOAA.
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