WRAL WeatherCenter Blog

NOAA: Atlantic hurricane season will be near normal; 10 to 16 named storms forecast

Posted May 27
Updated July 22

— The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season will be near normal.

Forecasters on Friday said they expect 10 to 16 named storms, including four to eight hurricanes, this season. The Atlantic hurricane season officially starts June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

NOAA's Climate Prediction Center says uncertainty in the "climate signals" that influence the formation of Atlantic storms make predicting the season more difficult.

“This is a more challenging hurricane season outlook than most because it’s difficult to determine whether there will be reinforcing or competing climate influences on tropical storm development,” Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said in a statement. Hurricane and flags WRAL Hurricane Center with interactive tracker

"However, a near-normal prediction for this season suggests we could see more hurricane activity than we’ve seen in the last three years, which were below normal.”

NOAA says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (systems with winds of 39 mph or higher), four to eight hurricanes (storms with winds of 74 mph or higher), including one to four major hurricanes (storms with 111 mph winds or higher).

The 2015 season was slightly below average with 11 named storms, including two tropical storms that made landfall and caused flooding in South Carolina and Texas. Hurricane Joaquin, one of two storms to reach major hurricane strength in 2015, killed 33 people aboard a cargo ship thank sank off the Bahamas in October.

While the season doesn't officially begin until next week, one hurricane has already formed in the Atlantic Ocean this year: Hurricane Alex formed in the middle of the Atlantic in January.

The National Hurricane Center says an area of low pressure between Bermuda and the Bahamas could be brewing into something bigger on Friday or Saturday.

Friday's seasonal forecast from NOAA comes on the heels of an above-average forecast from researchers at North Carolina State University. Professor Lian Xie said in April that the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season could be "significantly more active" than the overall average since 1950. Buxton weather Hurricane names for the 2016 Atlantic season

N.C. State predicts the season could generate 15 to 18 tropical storms and hurricanes. Between 1950 and 2014, the average number of tropical storms and hurricanes during the Atlantic season has been 11. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.

Of the potential named storms in 2016, between eight and 11 could grow strong enough to become hurricanes, Xie said. Three to five could become major hurricanes.

The 2016 season will be the first in which the National Hurricane Center uses storm surge to gauge the strength of a storm. The change comes as a result of stark data showing that water – not wind – is the most deadly threat from tropical systems. About half of hurricane-related deaths are due to storm surge while less than 10 percent are the result of wind.

New technology will give forecasters at the National Hurricane Center in Miami the ability to predict storm surge. Alerts will be issued when flood waters reach 3 feet above ground level, which is considered life-threatening.

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