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Near normal hurricane season predicted

Saturday, May 24, 2014    

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WASHINGTON, DC, USA (CMC) — In its 2014 Atlantic hurricane season outlook, the United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is forecasting a near-normal or below-normal season.

The NOAA's Climate Prediction Centre said the main driver of this year's outlook is the anticipated development of El Niño this summer.

El Niño causes stronger wind shear, which reduces the number and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes.

According to the NOAA, El Niño can also strengthen the trade winds and increase the atmospheric stability across the tropical Atlantic, making it more difficult for cloud systems coming off of Africa to intensify into tropical storms.

The outlook calls for a 50 per cent chance of a below-normal season, a 40 per cent chance of a near-normal season, and only a 10 per cent chance of an above-normal season.

For the six-month hurricane season, which begins June 1, the NOAA predicts a 70 per cent likelihood of 8-13 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which three to six could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including one top two major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).

These numbers, said the NOAA, are near or below the seasonal averages of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, based on the average from 1981 to 2010.

The Atlantic hurricane region includes the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico.

"Thanks to the environmental intelligence from NOAA's network of earth observations, our scientists and meteorologists can provide life-saving products like our new storm surge threat map and our hurricane forecasts," said Dr Kathryn Sullivan, NOAA administrator.

"And even though we expect El Niño to suppress the number of storms this season, it's important to remember it takes only one land-falling storm to cause a disaster," she added.

Dr Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with the NOAA's Climate Prediction Centre, said the Atlantic -- which has seen above-normal seasons in 12 of the last 20 years — has been in an era of high activity for hurricanes since 1995.

However, he said this high-activity pattern is expected to be offset in 2014 by the impacts of El Niño, and by cooler Atlantic Ocean temperatures than seen in recent years.

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