The Atlantic hurricane season could see between two and four major hurricanes in 2017, according to the latest forecast from NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. There's only a 20 percent chance that this season will be less active than normal, the agency says.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins June 1, but one named storm, Arlene, already hit land last month. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration says it expects between 11 and 17 named storms (with sustained winds of 39 mph or higher), and from five to nine hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher) this season.
"The season could be comparable to last year, which was the most active since 2012 with 15 named storms," said Gerry Bell, the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.
The Atlantic season runs through Nov. 1. Toward the end of the 2016 hurricane season, a powerful storm, Hurricane Matthew, reached Category 5 status and brought destruction and flooding to an area that ranged from Haiti to the Carolinas and beyond.
NOAA says that in its 2017 forecast, it's expecting a weak or nonexistent El Nino and near- or above-average sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, among other factors.
There's still "considerable uncertainty" about conditions this season, the agency says, a point illustrated by comparable predictions for an above-normal season (45 percent) and a near-normal season (35 percent).
In the eastern Pacific and central Pacific hurricane basins, NOAA predicts an 80 percent chance of a near- or above-normal season for both regions.
From the weather agency:
"The eastern Pacific outlook also calls for a 70 percent probability of 14 to 20 named storms, of which 6 to 11 are expected to become hurricanes, including 3 to 7 major hurricanes. The central Pacific outlook calls for a 70 percent probability of 5 to 8 tropical cyclones, which includes tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes."
Here's the list of 21 names that will be given to strong storms this year (the list is managed by the World Meteorological Organization):