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NOAA: Above-normal Atlantic hurricane season likely this year

With the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season beginning June 1, Nassau and Suffolk County executives Edward Mangano and Steve Bellone, respectively, on Wednesday, May 31, 2017, urged all Long Islanders to be prepared for the hurricane season, which federal forecasters have said may shape up to be an active one this year. (Credit: Howard Schnapp)

Federal forecasters last week said the Atlantic coast hurricane season, which begins June 1, may shape up to be an active one this year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center’s forecasters said May 25 that they predict a 70 percent likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms, of which five to nine could become hurricanes. NOAA said two to four of those storms could be major hurricanes, meaning Category 3 or higher.

A dozen named storms — with six becoming hurricanes and three of those considered major — is considered an average season, NOAA said.

Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. However, there can be outlier storms, such as this year’s Tropical Storm Arlene, which formed in April over the eastern Atlantic and is figured into the outlook’s numbers.

“The outlook reflects our expectation of a weak or nonexistent El Niño, 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, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with the Climate Prediction Center, in a statement.

NOAA said that strong El Niños and wind shear “typically suppress development of Atlantic hurricanes, so the prediction for weak conditions points to more hurricane activity this year.”

Impacting weather conditions worldwide, El Niño is a climate pattern that starts with especially warm sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific and 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 University’s website.

Colorado State researchers also issue hurricane outlooks, with the next one scheduled for June 1.

Still, uncertainty does remain, with models “quite mixed” as to factors of El Niño’s development, Bell said Thursday on a media call. That is one factor reflected in “comparable probabilities for an above-normal and near-normal season,” NOAA said.

Of course, regardless of the overall number of storms, it takes only one tropical system to devastate a community, as Long Islanders will recall from 2012’s superstorm Sandy.

“We cannot stop hurricanes, but . . . we can prepare for them,” said Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator, reflecting a major theme from the call.

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