More storms may churn in the Atlantic this year than previously thought. Earlier estimates had anywhere from 11-18 named storms forecast. Now it looks like that number could potentially be much higher.
NOAA now estimates that anywhere from 14-23 named storms could form this year. Of these, 8-14 could become hurricanes, and 3-7 could become major hurricanes; Category 3 storms with winds of at least 111 mph.
Three major factors support a very active hurricane season.
- Upper level winds more conducive to storm development. Too much wind shear will rip apart storms in their developing stages, making it much more difficult for tropical storms and hurricanes to form. In El Nino patterns, we typically see high amounts of wind shear in the Atlantic, suppressing storm formation. That's what kept 2009 so quiet. This year, we're headed into hurricane season with a more neutral pattern, and scientists also say there's a possibility of a La Nina developing this summer.
- Warm Atlantic Ocean water. Record warm temperatures are present in the Atlantic regions where hurricanes typically form. Temperatures in these areas are up to 4 degrees above normalTropical storms need ocean waters of at least 80 degrees to form. This is due in part to a very quiet 2009 season. Hurricanes transport heat northward, and with very few forming last year, that heat remains bottled up near the Equator.
- High activity era. Since 1995, the multi-decadal cycle in the tropics has kept us busy. Eight of the last 15 seasons rank in the top ten for most named storms. In first place: 2005 with 28 named storms.
The president recently designated May 23-29 as National Hurricane Preparedness Week, saying now is the time to prepare. Visit www.kbtx.com/hurricanes for more information.
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