WASHINGTON, Aug. 9 (UPI) -- The National Atmospheric and Oceanographic Administration says it is raising its hurricane season predictions despite expected El Nino conditions.
After a busy start with six named storms to date, the 2012 season may have a busy second half, an updated hurricane season outlook issued Thursday by NOAA's Climate Prediction Center said.
While the updated outlook still indicates a 50 percent chance of a near-normal hurricane season, it 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.
Across the entire Atlantic Basin for the June 1 to Nov. 30 season, NOAA's updated outlook projects a total of 12 to 17 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including 5 to 8 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which 2 to 3 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph).
Those numbers include the activity to date of tropical storms Alberto, Beryl, Debbie, Florence and hurricanes Chris and Ernesto.
"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," Gerry Bell, hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center said.
A mitigating El Nino condition will likely develop in August or September, NOAA forecasters said.
"El Nino is a competing factor, because it strengthens the vertical wind shear over the Atlantic, which suppresses storm development," Bell said. "However, we don't expect El Nino's influence until later in the season."