Brace for an unusually wild hurricane season, federal weather forecasters warned Thursday.
Forecasters are predicting above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three to six major hurricanes. Last year was the third-busiest storm season on record.
Before the numbers solidify in your mind, government forecasters make no attempt to say where storms might go. However it does note that the U.S. coastline is at increased risk during busy seasons.
The major ingredients that fuel storms are warm waters in the Atlantic and low levels of wind shear, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said during a press conference.
El Niño, the atmospheric force that inhibits storm formation, is not expected to emerge this year, and the Atlantic basin remains in a period of heightened tropical intensity, the result of a natural cycle.
"This year, oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the Atlantic basin are expected to produce more and stronger hurricanes," said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. "These conditions include weaker wind shear, warmer Atlantic waters and conducive winds patterns coming from Africa."
New for this hurricane season are improvements to forecast models, data gathering, and the National Hurricane Center communication procedure for post-tropical cyclones. In July, NOAA plans to bring online a new supercomputer that will run an upgraded Hurricane Weather Research and Forecasting (HWRF) model that provides significantly enhanced depiction of storm structure and improved storm intensity forecast guidance.
Also this year, Doppler radar data will be transmitted in real time from NOAA's Hurricane Hunter aircraft. This will help forecasters better analyze rapidly evolving storm conditions, and these data could further improve the HWRF model forecasts by 10 to 15 percent.
The National Weather Service has also made changes to allow for hurricane warnings to remain in effect, or to be newly issued, for storms like Sandy that have become post-tropical. That allows forecasters to provide a continuous flow of forecast and warning information for evolving or continuing threats.
"The start of hurricane season is a reminder that our families, businesses and communities need to be ready for the next big storm," said Joe Nimmich, FEMA associate administrator for Response and Recovery. "Preparedness today can make a big difference down the line, so update your family emergency plan and make sure your emergency kit is stocked. Learn more about how you can prepare for hurricane season at www.ready.gov/hurricanes."
Next week, May 26 - June 1, is National Hurricane Preparedness Week. To help those living in hurricane-prone areas prepare, NOAA is offering hurricane preparedness tips, along with video and audio public service announcements in both English and Spanish, featuring NOAA hurricane experts and the FEMA administrator at www.nhc.noaa.gov/prepare/.