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U.S. weather agency forecasts more active Atlantic hurricane season

08-10-2012 03:11 BJT

WASHINGTON, Aug. 9 (Xinhua) -- The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast a slightly more active 2012 Atlantic hurricane season on Thursday, saying warming seas and the late arrival of El Nino would bring near-normal to above- normal storm activity.

NOAA's updated outlook indicates a 50 percent chance of a near- normal hurricane season, increases the chance of an above-normal season to 35 percent and decreases the chance of a below-normal season to only 15 percent from the initial outlook issued in May.

For the entire six-month season -- June 1 to November 30, NOAA' s Climate Prediction Center predicted that there will be 12 to 17 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including two to eight hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which two to three could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph)

The numbers are higher from the initial outlook in May, which called for 9-15 named storms, 4-8 hurricanes and 1-3 major hurricanes. Based on a 30-year average, a normal Atlantic hurricane season produces 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.

"We are increasing the likelihood of an above-normal season because storm-conducive wind patterns and warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures are now in place in the Atlantic," said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center. "These conditions are linked to the ongoing high activity era for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995. Also, strong early- season activity is generally indicative of a more active season."

NOAA seasonal climate forecasters also announced that El Nino will likely develop in August or September.

"El Nino is a competing factor, because it strengthens the vertical wind shear over the Atlantic, which suppresses storm development. However, we don't expect El Nino's influence until later in the season," Bell said.

El Nino conditions are characterized by unusually warm ocean temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific that normally peak during the Northern Hemisphere "cool season." They occur every three to five years with stronger events generally occurring every 10-15 years. El Nino conditions have important consequences for global weather patterns, and within the U.S., often cause wetter-than- average conditions and cooler-than-normal temperatures across much of the South.

Editor:James |Source: Xinhua

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