Hurricane forecast: Busy months ahead

Hurricane season 2013, just now entering its peak, still is shaping up as another active year, with as many as nine hurricanes expected over the next few months.

But the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday it might be a shade less intense than expected.

The latest outlook calls for 13 to 19 named storms, including six to nine hurricanes with three to five becoming major hurricanes. That’s one less storm and major hurricane and one to two fewer hurricanes overall than a pre-season prediction issued in May.

NOAA said one key factor was the decreased likelihood of a La Niña formation, a global weather pattern that reduces atmospheric wind shear over the Atlantic Ocean and enhances hurricane development. But with four named storms already and the historically busiest months ahead — August, September and October — NOAA still expects another above-normal to very active season.

“Our confidence for an above-normal season is still high because the predicted atmospheric and oceanic conditions that are favorable for storm development have materialized,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

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