MIAMI — NOAA is predicting this year’s hurricane season to be “near normal” with at least 12 named storms.
Lead NOAA hurricane forecaster, Matthew Rosencrans said that anyone living in a hurricane-prone area should “absolutely start preparing now.”
Rosencrans said people in the hurricane belt, such as residents of the U.S. Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, should “absolutely” begin their household storm preparations now by visiting ready.gov/hurricanes
NOAA also cautioned that unusually high sea-surface temperatures and a likely El Niño complicates the forecast.
Details: NOAA said the season, which runs from June 1 through November 30, could bring between 12 and 17 named storms. Five to nine of those could become hurricanes, with one to four hitting Category 3 or higher.
Context: NOAA lead hurricane forecaster Matthew Rosencrans cautioned that the combination of El Niño and warm waters causes “a lot of uncertainty.” He said that’s why NOAA’s predictions are roughly split, with a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season and an equal 30 percent probability of below and above normal.
Rosencrans said El Niño events typically reduce storm activity, with anywhere from six to 18 named storms in a year according to historical data. But an El Niño has occurred only one other time with comparatively high sea surface temperatures amid an active storm era, muddying the outlook for this season.
“It’s definitely kind of a rare setup for this year,” he said at a press conference.
Climate change has contributed to warmer ocean temperatures, which climate scientists say is fueling more intense storms whenever they form.
What’s Next: NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said the agency would soon unveil new modeling and computing capabilities that improve its forecasting abilities.
NOAA next month will launch an improved primary hurricane model that Spinrad said would boost track and intensity forecast accuracy by 15 percent.
In July, NOAA’s computing capacity will grow by 20 percent, enabling the agency “to run more complex forecast models, and provide faster and more efficient computing power for operational prediction, research and development,” he said.
NOAA earlier this month also extended its probabilistic storm surge models to Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, which Spinrad said would help the territories better prepare for storms.