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Normal hurricane season expected

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NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center forecasts a near-normal or below-normal Atlantic hurricane season, which begins June 1.


El Niño is expected to develop this summer, creating stronger wind shear that suppresses the number and intensity of storms. 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, according to NOAA’s 2014 Atlantic Hurricane Outlook released this week.


The outlook calls for a 50 percent chance of a below-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 10 percent chance of an above-normal season. NOAA predicts a 70 percent likelihood of 8-13 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 3-6 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1-2 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).


These numbers 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.


The Atlantic, which has seen above-normal seasons in 12 of the past 20 years, has been in an era of high activity for hurricanes since 1995, said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. However, this pattern is expected to be offset this year by the impacts of El Niño, and by cooler Atlantic Ocean temperatures than in recent years.


NOAA is rolling out an experimental mapping tool this year to show communities their storm surge flood threat. The map will be issued for coastal areas when a hurricane or tropical storm watch is first issued, or about 48 hours before the anticipated onset of tropical storm force winds.


This week is National Hurricane Preparedness Week. For NOAA hurricane preparedness tips, visit www.hurricanes.gov/prepare.

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