Hurricane season starts June 1 and runs through November. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is forecasting an above-average season.
We usually expect the hurricane season to have 11 named storms over the Atlantic Ocean; this year’s forecast is for 12 to 18. Of those, 6 to 10 might become hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or more. NOAA also is forecasting that as many as six of these storms could become major storms with wind of at least 111 mph.
There are a couple of conditions that contribute to this expected above-average season. One is the observation that the average ocean temperatures where hurricanes tend to form and travel is two degrees above normal. Sea-surface temperatures of at least 80 degrees is a required condition for hurricane formation. So, a warmer-than-average ocean means there is extra energy to help form and intensify hurricanes.
A second factor is that the La Nina conditions in the Pacific Ocean, which helped to contribute to our cold winter, are weakening. These changing La Nina conditions result in more favorable conditions for hurricane development over the Atlantic Ocean by promoting environments in which the difference between the surface and upper level winds is smaller than usual.
Hurricanes are named to better communicate forecasts to the general public as names can reduce confusion about which storm is being described. A list of names is generated by the National Hurricane Center. The first four Atlantic hurricanes this year will be named Arlene, Bret, Cindy and Don.