The view of Hurricane Matthew as seen from space as it approached the Florida peninsula in 2016. Forecasters said it's likely the 2017 Atlantic hurricane season will be as active as 2016, which produced 16 named storms. Photo courtesy NOAA
May 25 (UPI) -- Forecasters at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration said it's likely the approaching Atlantic hurricane season will produce above-normal tropical storm activity.
NOAA scientists said there is a 45 percent chance there will be more than the usual number of named storms. There is a 35 percent chance of an average number of storms and a 20 percent chance of a below-average hurricane season.
Specifically, forecasters said there is a 70 percent chance there will be between 11 and 17 named storms that pack winds of 39 mph or higher. Under that scenario, five to nine of the storms will develop into hurricanes with winds of 79 mph or higher and two to four will become major hurricanes, a category 3 or stronger, with winds of 111 mph or higher.
The forecast does not predict how many of those storms will make landfall in the United States or elsewhere.
Forecasters consider an average season one with 12 named storms, including six hurricanes.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, though this year has already produced a rare pre-season named storm, Tropical Storm Arlene, which formed over the eastern Atlantic in April, but never made landfall.
NOAA's Climate Prediction Center noted conditions globally are ripe for an active Atlantic hurricane season due to a weak or nonexistent El Nino, warm surface water temperatures and average or weaker-than-average vertical wind shear, which helps prevent the cyclones from forming and intensifying.
The 2016 season was the most active since 2012, with 16 named storms. Among them was Hurricane Matthew, the first major hurricane to hit the United States since Katrina and Wilma both made landfall in 2005.