COLLEGE PARK, Md., Aug. 9 (UPI) -- The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration, in an updated Atlantic hurricane season outlook, says the season is shaping up to be above normal.
It could in fact become very active, NOAA said; the season has already produced four named storms with the peak of the season ---- mid-August through October -- still to come.
The conditions currently in place are similar to those that have produced many active Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1995, including above-average Atlantic sea surface temperatures and a stronger rainy season in West Africa, which produces wind patterns that help turn storm systems originating there into tropical storms and hurricanes, forecasters said.
"Our confidence for an above-normal season is still high because the predicted atmospheric and oceanic conditions that are favorable for storm development have materialized," said lead seasonal hurricane forecaster Gerry Bell at the administration's Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service.
"Also, two of the four named storms to-date formed in the deep tropical Atlantic, which historically is an indicator of an active season," he said in a NOAA release Friday.
The updated outlook calls for a 70 percent chance of an above-normal season, with 13 to 19 named storms (top winds of 39 mph or higher), including 6 to 9 hurricanes (top winds of 74 mph or higher), of which 3 to 5 could be major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of at least 111 mph).
The predicted ranges are above the 30-year seasonal averages of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, forecasters said.