Expect ‘active’ hurricane season, U.S. forecasters warn

On the cusp of hurricane season, federal officials said they expect an active stretch of potentially damaging tropical storms. 

Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Tuesday there is a 65 percent chance of an above-normal season along the Atlantic seaboard. They predict — with 70 percent confidence — between 14 and 21 named storms, meaning they come with winds that hit 39 mph or higher. They expect between six and 10 hurricanes. 

Hurricane season officially begins June 1, though in recent years tropical storms have struck before then. 

“We are in an active period,” said NOAA administrator Rick Spinrad, noting that if predictions prove accurate, it would be the 7th-consecutive above-normal season. 

Several conditions that affect the intensity and frequency of hurricanes are lining up to drive a big season, according to Matthew Rosencrans, NOAA’s lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the Climate Prediction Center. 

A La Niña cycle — which is associated with hurricanes — remains in effect. Meantime, surface sea temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean are above average. West Africa is also experiencing an active monsoon system. 

These patterns bear the fingerprints of climate change, Spinrad said. 

“We can’t simply point to a particular storm, whether it’s a strong storm like Ida or any others, and say that’s climate change,” Spinrad said. “The attribution is more in the patterns, the tendencies, the mode that we’re in.”

Hurricane Ida, which made landfall in Louisiana last August, killed six people there. It then brought heavy rains and flooding to the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, where it killed 49 more. The hurricane caused about $75 million in damage.

Emergency managers and those living in areas affected by hurricanes should prepare now, said Deanne Criswell, the administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

“We are seeing these storms develop faster, they’re developing more frequently, and so it’s giving our state and local emergency managers less time to actually warn the public,” Criswell said.

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