With the start of the Atlantic hurricane season less than one week away, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, says it could be a busy one with five to nine hurricanes expected to form.
Overall, NOAA forecasts 11 to 17 named tropical storms will develop in the region, which includes the Atlantic, the Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico, the agency announced Thursday.
The season officially begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.
Of the hurricanes, two to four could be major, with wind speeds of 111 mph or higher and rated as Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Scale of Hurricane Intensity.
An average season typically produces 12 named tropical storms and six hurricanes and peaks in August and September.
A tropical storm contains wind speeds of 39 mph or higher and becomes a hurricane when winds reach 74 mph.
Factors contributing to the prediction include: A weak or non-existent El Nino, near- or above-average sea-surface temperatures, and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear, said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
Meteorologists at Colorado State University last month estimated 11 tropical storms will form, with four becoming hurricanes.
The late Colorado State University meteorologist William Gray was the first scientist to make seasonal hurricane forecasts back in the 1980s.
The Weather Channel predicts an average season, with 12 named storms, of which six will become hurricanes. AccuWeather forecasts 10 named storms, five of which are projected to become hurricanes.