The season has the potential to be extremely active, NOAA said Wednesday, and could be the most active since 2010.
This week Tropical Storm Franklin sparked minor changes to a couple cruise itineraries as it cut across Mexico's Yucatán Peninsula then intensified into the season's first hurricane before making a second landfall last night north of Veracruz.
NOAA forecasters now say there is a 60% chance of an above-normal season, compared to their May prediction of 45% chance, with 14 to 19 named storms (up from 11-17 earlier predicted) and two to five major hurricanes (increased from the May forecast of two to four). The prediction for five to nine hurricanes remains unchanged from the May outlook.
'We’re now entering the peak of the season when the bulk of the storms usually form,' said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. 'The wind and air patterns in the area of the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean where many storms develop are very conducive to an above-normal season. This is in part because the chance of an El Niño forming, which tends to prevent storms from strengthening, has dropped significantly from May.'
Bell noted other factors that point to an above-normal season include warmer waters across the tropical Atlantic than models previously predicted and higher predicted activity from available models.
In just the first nine weeks of this season there have been six named storms, half the number of storms during an average six-month season and double the number of storms that would typically form by early August. An average Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.