How many hurricanes are expected to form in the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season?

On Thursday, NOAA announced the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season is over. The season officially ends at 12:01 a.m. EDT Friday, but the hurricane season just began and it will be long one with at least seven named storms, of which three will become hurricanes, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Hurricane Florence made landfall on the East Coast as a Category 1 hurricane but the season will likely see even more dangerous storms. Here’s how big a potential storm season could be:

Analysts expect the strength of the upcoming hurricane season to mirror the average. The three-season average for storms during the Atlantic hurricane season is 11 named storms, including six hurricanes (two major), two major hurricanes make landfall in the U.S.

(For the record, the four-year average is 11 named storms, including six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.)

Already, there have been 11 named storms during the Atlantic hurricane season in 2018. It is expected that the activity during the next six months will continue, bringing yet another season that will see more activity than normal.

What are the current conditions?

One of the primary reasons for the weak El Niño this year is that Atlantic waters have cooled, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced on Thursday. El Niño is characterized by an increase in winds blowing from west to east and has been associated with storms in the Atlantic Sea.

The current Southern Oscillation is also a primary reason for the decreased Atlantic storm activity. The Southern Oscillation is a positive or negative phase in which the sun’s rays are directed away from the Earth causing less wind shear in the atmosphere. And more shear means weaker storm systems and it has become more positive, or positive Southern Oscillation, in 2018.

In addition, wind shear is the type of wind direction that breaks a storm in two. Wind shear creates problems for a storm system because it can help organize large storms while allowing smaller storms to form. A storm with shear will remain smaller and weaker because they are able to gather less moisture from the atmosphere, the leading factor in storm formation, in an intense tropical storm.

“Hurricane season has begun on the heels of a weakened or non-existent Southern Oscillation, yet El Niño doesn’t appear to have a significant impact on potential storm activity due to cooler waters in the tropical Atlantic Ocean,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

The official name for this year’s hurricane season is El Niño-neutral. After the seasonal hurricane season concludes at 12:01 a.m. EDT on Friday, June 1, NOAA and its partners will release an updated outlook for hurricane season and updated forecast projections.

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