The New York Times Company
Following a record number of Atlantic Ocean storms over the past two months, including five that struck the United States, government scientists on Thursday updated their forecast for the remainder of the hurricane season, saying it was likely to be extremely active.
“It’s shaping up to be one of the most active seasons on record,” said Louis Uccellini, director of the National Weather Service.
Gerry Bell, the lead hurricane season forecaster with the climate prediction center of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said there could be 19 to 25 named storms, those with sustained winds above 38 mph, or 61 kilometers an hour, by the time the season ends on Nov. 30. Of these, seven to 11 could be hurricanes, with winds of 74 mph or higher, including three to six major ones.
“We’ve never forecast up to 25 named storms before,” Bell said. But he said that it was unlikely the season would be as active as 2005, when there were 28 named storms and the Weather Service had to resort to using the Greek alphabet for the last few.
And the forecast for major hurricanes, those with winds exceeding 110 mph, was unchanged from the scientists’ preseason predictions, issued in May.
At that time, they said they expected an active season, with 12 to 19 named storms.
But the season, which officially began June 1, has already seen nine named storms, including the latest, Hurricane Isaias, which struck the Bahamas and the East Coast of the United States this week. That’s the most number of storms on record for the first two months.
Those months are usually relatively quiet; typically about 95% of storms occur between mid-August and the end of October, when ocean temperatures reach their peak and atmospheric conditions off the coast of Africa favor storm formation.
So far, five of the storms have struck the United States — three tropical storms and Hurricane Hanna as well as Isaias.
Bell also said that it was too early to tell whether climate change was contributing to the activity this season. Hurricane activity in the Atlantic is greatly affected by two elements of the planet’s climate system — natural variations, over decades, in sea surface temperatures in the North Atlantic, and shorter-term temperature variations in the equatorial Pacific Ocean.