Published: 2015-05-27 15:02:00
Updated: 2015-05-27 15:17:40
Posted May 27, 2015
Raleigh, N.C. — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Wednesday predicted a “below average” hurricane season for 2015.
The agency forecasts six to 11 tropical storms, with three to six of those storms developing into a minimal hurricane. Zero to two storms could become Category 3 or higher, meaning they would have winds of at least 111 mph.
“A below-normal season doesn’t mean we’re off the hook,” NOAA Administrator Kathryn Sullivan said. “As we’ve seen before, below-normal season can still produce catastrophic impacts to communities.”
She noted the 1992 season, which saw only seven named storms, including Hurricane Andrew. The deadly Category 5 storm devastated South Florida.
“The main factor expected to suppress the hurricane season this year is El Niño, which is already affecting wind and pressure patterns, and is forecast to last through the hurricane season,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “El Niño may also intensify as the season progresses, and is expected to have its greatest influence during the peak months of the season. We also expect sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic to be close to normal, whereas warmer waters would have supported storm development.”
Hurricane season officially lasts from June 1 to Nov. 30, but this season’s first storm – Ana – came ashore in Mrytle Beach, S.C., earlier this month. The weak storm dumped rain from Virginia to South Carolina.
NOAA scientists said Ana’s pre-season development is not a harbinger of a strong season. The storm formed from a frontal boundary associated with the jet stream off the U.S. coast, while most storms during the peak of the season originate from low-pressure systems moving west from Africa.