Hurricane season officially kicks off tomorrow (June 1), and forecasters expect the Atlantic Ocean will spawn a near-average number of hurricanes in 2016.
“Near-normal may sound relaxed and encouraging, but we could be in for more activity than we’ve seen in recent years,” warned Kathryn Sullivan, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). Officials with NOAA issued the forecast at a news conference Friday (May 27) in Suitland, Maryland. NOAA has released a hurricane forecast each year since 2000.
The past three years have seen a hurricane drought in the Atlantic. There were only four hurricanes and seven tropical storms in 2015. A typical hurricane season, which runs through Nov. 30, sees six hurricanes.
The 2016 NOAA forecast calls for a total of 10 to 16 named storms, including both tropical storms and hurricanes. This year’s Hurricane Alex, a rare January hurricane, counts as one of these named storms. Tropical Storm Bonnie, which made landfall in South Carolina on Saturday (May 28), is the year’s second named storm.
The forecast predicts between four and eight named storms may become hurricanes — organized, rotating storms with sustained winds of 74 mph (119 km/h) or faster. Between one and four could become major hurricanes, defined as Category 3 storms or above — or those hurricanes with winds of at least 111 mph (179 km/h)