The forecast is in, and it’s not looking bright: the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its outlook
for the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season today, predicting an above-average
According to the forecast, there is a 45 percent chance of
an above-normal season, a 35 percent chance of a near-normal season, and only a
20 percent chance of a below-normal season.
More specifically, forecasters predict a 70 percent
likelihood of 11 to 17 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher) — five to nine
of these could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including two to
four major hurricanes (Categories 3, 4, or 5, with winds of 111 mph or higher).
These numbers take into account Tropical Storm Arlene, an April pre-season
storm in the eastern Atlantic.
An average season consists of 12 named storms, of which six
become hurricanes and three become major hurricanes.
In a press release, Gerry Bell, PH.D., lead seasonal
hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, attributes the
outlook to their expectation of a weak or non-existent El Nino, near- or
above-average sea-surface temperatures in the region, and an average or
weaker-than-average vertical wind shear in the same region.
Since strong El Ninos and wind shear typically suppress
development of Atlantic hurricanes, their predicted weak condition influences
the predicted increase in this year’s hurricane activity. This isn’t a good mix
with the warmer sea surface temperatures, which love to fuel hurricanes. It’s
important to note, though, that the climate models are showing considerable
If you’re cruising around the Atlantic this season, bear in
mind that NOAA’s National Hurricane Center will have additional tools to track
storms besides its typical advisories, watches, and warnings, which will
include disturbances that aren’t a tropical cyclone but still threaten land
with tropical storm or hurricane conditions within 48 hours. They also have a
new experimental visualization tool, which will show when damaging winds are
forecast to reach a community, and a more interactive and clickable hurricane
track cone graphic, which will indicate how far outside the cone hurricane and
tropical-storm-force winds extend.
The 2016 season was the most active since 2012, producing 15
named storms, including seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes.
In regards to the eastern Pacific and central Pacific, NOAA
predicted an 80 percent chance of a near-or above-normal season for both
regions. For the eastern Pacific, there is a 70 percent probability of 14 to 20
named storms, including six to 11 hurricanes, of which three to seven are
expected to be major hurricanes. For the central Pacific, there is a 70 percent
probability of five to eight tropical cyclones, including tropical depressions,
tropical storms, and hurricanes.