The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration updated its hurricane forecast on Thursday, and hey, good news. Due to a burgeoning El Niño, it’s likely that the rest of Atlantic hurricane season will be quieter than normal. It only takes one hurricane to do damage, though, and the peak of hurricane season is still ahead, so we’re not out of the woods yet.
The forecast calls for 4-7 hurricanes, of which up to two could become major ones with winds of Category 3 or greater strength. All told, NOAA is forecasting there will be 9-13 named storms. That includes tropical storms, hurricanes’ weaker sibling (though they can still dump copious amounts of rain). Overall, forecasters give this season 60 percent odds of being less active than usual, a huge uptick from the 25 percent forecast issued in May.
Saharan dust has played a role in tamping down activity, as have cooler-than-normal waters in the part of the Atlantic where tropical storms and hurricanes tend to form.
But the biggest reason forecasters think this year could be quiet is the creeping presence of an El Niño, which is characterized by warm waters in the eastern tropical Pacific. Those warm waters kickstart a series of changes in the atmosphere, including powerful upper level winds that cut across the Atlantic hurricane basin and tear storms apart or prevent them from spinning up at all.
Some storm systems will inevitably defy the odds, though, which is why forecasters continue to urge anyone living near the coast to stay vigilant.
“There are still more storms to come—the hurricane season is far from being over,” Gerry Bell, NOAA’s lead seasonal hurricane forecaster, said in a statement.
This Atlantic hurricane season has been a bit of a weird one so far. It started a few days early when a subtropical storm (yet another flavor of hurricane-like weather) formed in the Gulf of Mexico. Said storm then turned tropical as it passed over land and basically made landfall again on the Great Lakes, all of which is extremely not normal. Three other storms have formed including tiny ass Hurricane Beryl, the first hurricane of the season.
The lower odds of a season of horrors like last year are a welcome forecast if ever there was one even with the statistical peak of hurricane season still ahead and the official end months away.