Brian Hamacher

NOAA Predicting Above-Normal 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season

The agency foresees two to four major hurricanes in 2017

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting an above-normal 2017 Atlantic Hurricane Season, with between 11 and 17 named storms.

NOAA is giving a 45 percent probability for an above-normal season, with a 35 percent probability for a near-normal hurricane season and a 20 percent probability for a below-normal season.

Between five to nine hurricanes are predicted, along with two to four major hurricanes.

An average season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

"The outlook reflects our expectation of a weak or non-existent El Nino, near- or above-average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in that same region," said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

The 2016 season was the most active since 2012, with 15 named storms, including seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes.

Tropical storms have sustained winds of at least 39 mph (63 kph), and hurricanes have winds of at least 74 mph (119 kph).

While climate models show considerable uncertainty, "there's a potential for a lot of Atlantic storm activity this year," said Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator.

A new weather satellite will help forecasters see developing storms in greater detail, especially when it moves later this year into a permanent position over the East Coast with a view over the continental U.S. and tropical waters where hurricanes form, Freidman said. 

"Its 'lightning mapper' allows us to see lightning in the clouds like we've never seen before," he said. 

High-resolution hurricane model upgrades also are expected to provide "much improved" forecast guidance this year, said Mary Erickson, deputy director of the National Weather Service. 

Officials urged coastal residents to make evacuation plans and stock up on emergency supplies long before any tropical weather advisory is posted. 

The National Hurricane Center in Miami is adding advisories highlighting specific storm hazards: Storm surge watches and warnings will be issued when U.S. communities are at risk for life-threatening flooding. The "uncertainty cone" showing a storm's projected path will be updated to show how far damaging winds can reach. An experimental "time of arrival" graphic will show people when tropical storm-force winds are expected to start hitting their areas. 

"Key data will be available earlier than ever to make informed decisions," said Robert Fenton, acting administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. 

The six-month Atlantic storm season officially starts June 1. 

A rare April tropical storm formed this year over the open ocean: Arlene, which was no threat to land. The next tropical storm will be named Bret. 

The 2016 hurricane season also started early with a January hurricane. It was the first above-normal season since 2012, with 15 named storms, seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes. 

Five storms made landfall in the U.S. last year, including hurricanes Hermine and Matthew.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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