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Storm season forecast updated

Aug. 11 — NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released on Thursday its update to the 2007 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook, which slightly downgrades its storm prediction, but maintains the agency’s expectations for an above-normal season.

Despite a quiet start to the season, which started June 1, August through October are typically the peak months of the Atlantic hurricane season. NOAA  scientists are predicting an 85-percent chance of an above-normal season, with the likelihood of 13 to 16 named storms, with seven to nine becoming hurricanes, of which three to five could become major hurricanes (Category 3 strength or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale).

In May, NOAA predicted a range of 13 to 17 named storms, with seven to 10 becoming hurricanes, and three to five becoming major hurricanes.

The development of key climate factors through early August — including the development of La Niña-like conditions — has increased the confidence of an above-normal season, according to NOAA.

Other climate patterns relevant to NOAA’s forecast include the ongoing multi-decadal signal (the set of oceanic and atmospheric conditions that have spawned increased Atlantic hurricane activity since 1995); and warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures in key areas of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea.

“Most of the atmospheric and oceanic conditions have developed as expected, and are consistent with those predicted in May,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center based in Camp Springs, Md. “Today’s El Niño/La Niña forecast from the Climate Prediction Center indicates a slightly greater than 50-percent probability that La Niña will form during the peak of the hurricane season. But more importantly, we are already observing wind patterns similar to those created by La Niña across the tropical Pacific Ocean and Caribbean Sea that encourage tropical cyclone development. The conditions are ripe for an above-normal season.”

So far this season there have been three Atlantic named storms (Andrea, Barry and Chantal), which is slightly above average. On average, one to two storms develop in June and July. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November 30.