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NOAA hikes hurricane forecast for rest of season

Forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are now calling for an extremely active hurricane season, hiking the predicted number of named storms and major hurricanes, according to the agency's latest outlook released Aug. 9.

The NOAA forecasters, which are now calling for a 60% chance of an above-normal season, up from a 45% projected in May, expect 14-19 named storms, as compared to 11-17 in the May outlook. The agency is also looking for two to five major hurricanes and five to nine hurricanes this season.

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"We're now entering the peak of the season when the bulk of the storms usually form," Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center said. "The wind and air patterns in the area of the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean where many storms develop are very conducive to an above-normal season. This is in part because the chance of an El Niño forming, which tends to prevent storms from strengthening, has dropped significantly from May."

El Niño is the periodic warming of central and eastern tropical Pacific waters and occurs every two to five years, on average, typically lasting about a year in length.

The timing of El Niño plays a key role in how active a hurricane season will become. During an El Niño year, the winds at the mid- and upper levels of the atmosphere are not favorable for the development of tropical system in the Atlantic hurricane basin. These winds can limit the number of tropical systems that develop during the hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin.

In just the first nine weeks of this season, there have been six named storms, which is half the number of storms during an average six-month season and double the number of storms that would typically form by early August. The average Atlantic Basin hurricane season, which runs from June 1 through Nov. 30 each year, produces 12 named storms, of which six usually become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

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NOAA's updated forecast decreases the chance of a near-normal season from 35% to 30%, and a below-normal season from 20% to only 10% from the initial outlook issued in May.

Separately, forecasters from Colorado State University recently reiterated their call for a very active period in the Atlantic Basin for the remainder of the current hurricane season. The current season in the Atlantic Basin has seen five named storms and is projected to feature 11 more. Additionally, the season could see eight hurricanes and three major hurricanes at Category 3 strength or higher, CSU said.