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Accuweather expects 8 Atlantic hurricanes but with eye on 'cold blob'

The latest tropical outlook from Accuweather.com releasedApril 6 is calling for a slightly more active than normal hurricane season inthe Atlantic basin this year, projecting the formation of 14 tropical stormsand eight hurricanes. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 throughNov. 30 each year.

SNL Image

However, it is the potential movement of a "coldblob" of water in the North Atlantic Ocean that could really impact stormactivity during the upcoming hurricane season, according to forecasts fromAccuweather.com. The "cold blob" is characterized as a large,anomalous area of colder-than-normal sea-surface temperatures, located east ofNewfoundland and south of Greenland.

SNL Image

"Whether or not ocean currents draw cold water fromthis blob southward into tropical regions of the Atlantic could determine howactive the season becomes. It is possible that the water from the cold blobcould alter the makeup of deep ocean currents and affect the salinity of thewater. If this happens, the pattern of warming waters that has been occurringsince 1995 will reverse, leading to a period of cooling," the forecastersaid.

But if this does not occur, sea-surface temperatures willremain mostly warmer than normal, which would likely lead to a more activehurricane season than seen over the past three years. In this scenario, thecurrent El Niño will weaken, eventually moving to a neutral pattern by the endof the spring or early summer.

"The big question is whether we will go into a La Niña,which is what we're anticipating right now," AccuWeather Atlantichurricane expert Dan Kottlowski said.

La Niña is characterized by cooler-than-normal ocean watertemperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. When this occurs, less windshear is found in the developmental regions of the Atlantic, increasing thepotential for a higher-than-normal number of tropical systems.

"Historically, some hurricane seasons that havefollowed a transition from El Niño to La Niña have been very active. It'spossible we could flip from one extreme to the other, from below-normal seasonsthe past three years to an above-normal year in 2016," he said.

Meantime, forecasters with Tropical Storm Risk are anticipatinga slightly less active hurricane season this year in the Atlantic. TSR iscalling for two intense hurricanes, six hurricanes and 12 tropical storms. Thelong-term norms are three, six and 11, respectively.

Tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic basin is projectedto be about 20% below the long-term norm and about 15% below the recent2006-2015 10-year norm.

The TSR forecast also points to a 40% likelihood thatactivity will be in the bottom one-third of years historically, a 35%likelihood it will be in the middle one-third of years historically and a 25%chance it will be in the top one-third of years historically.