At the start of peak Atlantic hurricane season, conditions in the Atlantic basin continue to indicate that this year’s will be an “above normal” one, federal scientists said Thursday. If those predictions play out, this will be the seventh consecutive year with an above-normal season.
The forecast indicates there could be 14 to 20 named storms, with six to 10 turning into hurricanes that sustain winds of at least 74 miles per hour, said Matthew Rosencrans, lead hurricane forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Three to five of those could become major hurricanes, which have winds of 111 miles per hour or greater, corresponding to Categories 3, 4 and 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
The updated forecast calculates a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season, down slightly from the preseason forecast in May.
The announcement follows a relatively quiet start to hurricane season, with no major storm developing in the Atlantic Ocean. All three of the named storms this year have been “shorties,” or short-lived storms that last less than 48 hours and have minimal impacts.
However, it’s not unusual for storms to ramp up later in the summer, after ocean waters have warmed more and can fuel large, swirling storms. The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, though it peaks between mid-August and October, when 90 percent of tropical storm activity usually occurs.
Thursday’s forecast was in part informed by a climatic pattern called La Niña, which has been in place intermittently since 2020 and impacts various aspects of weather, including prolonging the drought in the Western United States. La Niña conditions can “enhance Atlantic hurricane activity,” Mr. Rosencrans said, in part because of changes in wind direction and speed.
Scientists have documented a number of ways that climate change is altering cyclonic storms, making them more powerful and more destructive. Hurricanes are unleashing higher amounts of rainfall, which can worsen flooding. And because warmer water fuels hurricanes, the zone in which these storms can form is also expanding out of the tropics and toward subtropics and the middle latitudes.
“It only takes one landfalling storm to devastate a community,” Mr. Rosencrans said, referring to when a storm’s eye crosses the shoreline. “Now is the time to know your risks, develop a plan and be prepared for potential tropical storms or hurricanes ahead.”