Forecasters are predicting three to six hurricanes could develop in a slower than usual season this year due in part to the development of an El Niño.
Cooler temperatures on the surface of the Atlantic Ocean compared with recent years will also lower the probability of hurricane formation, according to forecasters.
“El Nino helps to reduce the ability of storm systems coming off Africa to strengthen into tropical storms and hurricanes,” Gerry Bell, the top hurricane season forecaster for the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said in a report by the Associated Press.
The El Nino warms part of the Pacific every few years and changes rain and temperature patterns around the world, NOAA says,
NOAA forecasts eight to 13 named tropical storms, and one or two major hurricanes, meaning storms with winds greater than 110 mph, during the six-month season that starts June 1.
According to the NOAA Climate Prediction Center, an El Niño would strengthen trade winds and increase atmospheric stability, which would make it more difficult for clouds coming from Africa to intensify into tropical storms.
The outlook has called 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.
The seasonal average, based on statistics recorded between 1981 and 2010, is 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
Mr. Bell said the Atlantic had seen above-normal seasons in 12 of the last 20 years and had been an area of high activity for hurricanes since 1995.
“The expectation of near-average Atlantic Ocean temperatures this season, rather than the above-average temperatures seen since 1995, also suggests fewer Atlantic hurricanes,” he said.
NOAA administrator Kathryn Sullivan said environmental intelligence has enabled scientists and meteorologists to provide potentially life-saving products, such as the storm surge threat map, and hurricane forecasts.
“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,” Ms. Sullivan said.
This year, the National Hurricane Center in Miami will use an experimental mapping tool to show communities their storm surge flood threat.
The map will be used in coastal areas after a storm or hurricane watch is first issued, or around 48 hours before the onset of force winds, to show land areas where storm surge could hit and how high above the ground the water could reach.
The names of this year’s Atlantic hurricanes are: Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky and Wilfred.