On Thursday, May 25, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their 2017 Atlantic hurricane season forecast. In short, they are forecasting an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, which is the first time they have forecasted an above average season since 2005, which is when big hurricanes like Hurricane Katrina struck the United States. There is a caveat to this forecast, however, because even though the most likely scenario is an above-normal hurricane season, there's a 35% chance for a near-normal season and a 20% chance for a below average season.
Here's NOAA's official 2017 Atlantic hurricane season forecast:
Note that these numbers include a rare, early-season Tropical Storm Arlene which occurred in April, and that major hurricanes are hurricanes at category three strength or greater.
There are several factors that go into the creation of this seasonable forecast. First, the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean Sea water temperatures are near or above average. Tropical cyclones require warm water to develop and maintain its strength, so the warmer the water, the greater the likelihood for stronger storms and perhaps more storms. Another factor is that El Niño will not be present this year. During the 2015 Atlantic hurricane season, an El Niño was present. Whenever there is an El Niño, tropical cyclone activity becomes suppressed, meaning that a below-average hurricane season likely occurs due to an increase in wind shear over the Atlantic basin. Wind shear is not good for tropical storms and hurricanes because it disrupts its circulation and makes it hard for these storms to either develop or strengthen. This year, wind shear over the Atlantic Ocean is forecast to be near or below average, which is conducive for tropical cyclones. There is still some uncertainty regarding what the wind shear will be like and whether there will be a weak El Niño during this year's hurricane season, however. That's why there's only a 45% chance for an above average season.
Here's this year's Atlantic hurricane season names:
This is the most important point of this forecast that I want to mention, which is that it only takes one storm to disrupt our lives somewhere in the United States. Even if a below-average hurricane season is forecast, a tropical storm or hurricane can still hit the U.S. Even with an above-average season forecast, like this year's, it does not guarantee that a storm will make landfall on the United States or on any other country in the Atlantic or Caribbean. That's why you need to prepare ahead of hurricane season, which goes from June 1 through November 30.