June 1 is the official start of hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin, although the formation of Alberto and Beryl off the Southeast pushed things into gear a bit earlier, AccuWeather.com said Friday.
The National Hurricane Center said it is the first time since 1908 that two tropical cyclones developed before June 1. AccuWeather.com forecasters, however, say it should be a near-normal hurricane season with 12 named storms, five named hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
"Many of the [previous] seasons that had May or even April storms had one big impact storm affecting the United States. Betsy in 1965 and well-known Agnes of 1972 are good examples," AccuWeather.com expert senior meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center said there is a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named storms, of which four to eight will strengthen to a hurricane. Three of those will become major hurricanes with top winds of 111 mph or higher.
Between 1981 and 2010, the average season produced 12 named storms with six hurricanes.
NOAA forecasters say a new statistical model will help determine a hurricane's strength and size as the season gets under way.
The new model will help predict the start of eyewall replacement cycles that can cause sudden dramatic changes in a hurricane.
NOAA scientist Jim Kossin, who led the effort to create the model, said skillful forecasting of the natural cycles is crucial to protecting life and property.
"As it was approaching New Orleans, Hurricane Katrina weakened but grew in size because of an eyewall replacement cycle, and the huge wind field led to an enormous storm surge that devastated the Gulf Coast," Kossin said Thursday in a statement.
The model uses data from NOAA Geostationary Operational Environmental Satellites to identify hurricane structure patterns related to eyewall replacement cycles. Microwave images from NOAA polar orbiting satellites were incorporated extensively to create the model using past data, the agency said.
Hurricane season in the Atlantic officially runs through Nov. 30.