Atlantic hurricane season expected to be strongest since 2012

NEW JERSEY — In its updated 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts a higher likelihood of a near-normal or above-normal season, and decreases the chance of a below-normal season to only 15 percent, from the initial outlook issued in May, according to an NOAA release dated Aug. 11. The season is still expected to be the most active since 2012.

Forecasters now expect a 70-percent chance of 12 to 17 named storms, of which five to eight are expected to become hurricanes, including two to four major hurricanes. The initial outlook called for 10 to16 named storms, four to eight hurricanes, and one to four major hurricanes. The season averages 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

“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,” Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said in the release. “However, less conducive ocean temperature patterns in both the Atlantic and eastern subtropical North Pacific, combined with stronger wind shear and sinking motion in the atmosphere over the Caribbean Sea, are expected to prevent the season from becoming extremely active.

“Given these competing conditions, La Nina, if it develops, will most likely be weak and have little impact on the hurricane season,” Bell continued. NOAA announced Aug. 11 that La Nina is slightly favored to develop during the hurricane season.

To date, this season there have been five named storms, including two hurricanes, Alex and Earl. Four made landfall: Bonnie in South Carolina, Colin in western Florida, Danielle in eastern Mexico and Earl in Belize and Mexico.

The NOAA is ready for the next storms though, with names already chosen: Fiona, Gaston, Hermine, Ian, Julia, Karl, Lisa, Matthew, Nicole, Otto, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tobias, Virginie and Walter.

As we move into the peak of hurricane season, when hurricanes are most frequent and often at their strongest, NOAA urges coastal residents to be sure they have their hurricane preparedness plans in place and to monitor the latest forecasts.

NOAA’s mission is to understand and predict changes in the Earth’s environment, from the depths of the ocean to the surface of the sun, and to conserve and manage coastal and marine resources.