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Weather: Forecasters update hurricane season

Lazaro Aleman: Greene Publishing, Inc.

Weather forecasters are revising their earlier predictions about the 2017 hurricane season in accordance with new information. Due to changing conditions in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is now indicating that the season could be “extremely active” for tropical storms and hurricanes.

In a revised forecast issued last week, the agency indicated that the chance of an above-normal season is now 60 percent, up from its May prediction of 45 percent. The agency has also raised its forecast range from the 14 to 19 named storms predicted in May to 11 to 17, with a slight increase of two to five major hurricanes. “We are seeing signs this could be the most active season since 2010,” said Gerry Bell, the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. In 2010, the season registered a total of 12 hurricanes and 19 named storms, a few of them severe. Notwithstanding NOAA’s revised forecast, the overall expected number of five to nine hurricanes remains unchanged.

The agency reported that its forecasters raised their expectations to a more active season based on several dominant climate factors. Among these factors were changes in wind patterns that are more conducive to storm formation; sea surface temperatures that are one-to-two degrees warmer than normal; and lower chances of El Niño forming, making for a higher risk of storms. NOAA indicated that it had a "high degree of confidence the conducive conditions will persist."

The agency also underscored that the next three months will likely be the most active, as this is historically when the overwhelming majority of storms occur.

To date, seven named tropical storms have been reported in the Atlantic in the first nine weeks of the season, “double the number that typically form by this time in an average year,” according to NOAA. Gert, the latest named tropical depression, was churning in the Atlantic earlier this week; it was expected to miss the continental United States entirely.

The Atlantic hurricane season began June 1 and ends Nov. 30.

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