MIAMI, Aug. 11 (UPI) -- This year's hurricane season will see a normal or above average number of severe storms -- perhaps as many as 17 -- by the time it's over, federal forecasters said Thursday.
In an update to its outlook, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration estimated a 70 percent likelihood that between 12 and 17 named storms will be produced before hurricane season ends in November. Between five and eight will turn into hurricanes, officials said.
In its original forecast in May, the NOAA said it expected between 10 and 16 -- which is considered normal or below average.
On average, the U.S. hurricane season sees 12 named storms and six hurricanes.
"We've raised the numbers because some conditions now in place are indicative of a more active hurricane season, such as El Niño ending, weaker vertical wind shear and weaker trade winds over the central tropical Atlantic," Gerry Bell, Ph.D., a forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, said. "However, less conducive ocean temperature patterns in both the Atlantic and eastern subtropical North Pacific ... are expected to prevent the season from becoming extremely active."
So far this season, there have been five named storms -- Alex, Bonnie, Colin, Danielle and Earl. -- and two (Alex and Earl) became hurricanes.
The next five names, which follow the alphabet, to be used for storms this season are Fiona, Gaston, Hermine, Ian and Julia.
August is considered to be the peak of hurricane season and often sees the most severe storms. Hurricane Katrina, in 2005, made landfall near Louisiana on Aug. 29.