Researchers and forecasters say they are predicting below-normal activity during this year’s Atlantic hurricane season.
The lower activity would be due in part to weak or moderate El Niño conditions, expected to emerge by the season’s peak, which is September, according to a report from Colorado State University.
Hurricane season officially begins on June 1 and runs through Nov. 30, though storms have been known to occur outside of those times.
El Niño — a weather pattern that starts with especially warm sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific — tends to increase upper-level westerly winds in the Atlantic, “tearing apart hurricanes as they try to form,” according to a posting on Colorado State’s website.
That team is predicting 11 named storms this year, with four becoming hurricanes. Of those, two are predicted to be major, which means Category 3, 4 or 5.
That’s compared to the median of 12 named storms, 6.5 of them hurricanes and two of those major.
The report also cites the cooling of the tropical Atlantic and much of the North Atlantic as a factor for the lower activity.
Such conditions “are associated with a more stable atmosphere as well as drier air, both of which suppress organized thunderstorm activity necessary for hurricane development,” the posting said.
Still, regardless of the overall activity level, for those living on the coast, “it takes only one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season” — a reminder the report includes annually.
The authors say there could be “significant alterations” to such an early call on the hurricane season, as “large changes in the atmosphere-ocean system frequently occur during the spring months.”
Also predicting a below-normal season are AccuWeather meteorologists, who are looking at a potential 10 named storms, with five becoming hurricanes and three of those becoming major.
They also cite El Niño as “the big factor.”
Last year’s hurricane activity was above normal in terms of activity, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said. Fifteen named storms occurred in 2016, including seven hurricanes — three of them major.