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This year’s Atlantic hurricane outlook grew more ominous Wednesday as a federal update warned that the season could become the most active since 2010.
The initial forecast by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in May, predicted a 45 percent chance of an above-normal season. Wednesday’s update put the odds at 60 percent.
Forecasters now expect an “extremely active” season of 14 to 19 named storms, up from the initial range of 11 to 17, and two to five major hurricanes, up one from May’s estimate.
Hurricane season began June 1, and the early storms that have formed give forecasters clues to what to expect through November.
Six named storms developed in the first nine weeks of the season, double the number typically seen through early August. Typical seasons produce 12 named storms including six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
“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 in a statement. “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.”
That’s in part because the chance of an El Niño forming has dropped sharply since May, Bell said. El Niños, a warming of the sea surface in the Pacific, tend to prevent storms from strengthening.
Other factors that point to an above-normal season include warmer than expected water in the tropical Atlantic and models that predict higher activity.
Of the six Atlantic storms so far this year, two made landfall in the U.S.: Cindy on June 22 in Texas and Louisiana, and Emily on July 31 in Florida. A third storm, Franklin, is expected to strike Mexico as a hurricane Wednesday night.
The National Hurricane Center tracks the development of Atlantic storms.