As the of peak the hurricane season approaches, forecasters predicted with confidence on Thursday that storm activity would remain low this year.
“We have an even higher confidence that this year’s hurricane season will be below normal,” said Gerry Bell, the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction center in College Park, Maryland.
NOAA predicted that this year would be a below average season with 90 percent confidence and reduced the ranges of the likely number of storms that would develop from its earlier prediction in May before the start of hurricane season.
Out of six to 10 named tropical storms expected to form this season, one to four are expected to become hurricanes and of those, one or even none are likely to become major hurricanes, Bell said.
Those numbers include the three storms that have already formed this season: Tropical Storm Ana made landfall in South Carolina in May and Tropical Storm Bill made landfall in Texas in June. The third storm, Claudette, formed in mid-July but steered clear of the East Coast.
Previously, forecasters had predicted six to 11 named storms, with three to six becoming hurricanes.
The below normal season is attributed to significant El Niño activity, a weather pattern that suppresses hurricanes in the Atlantic by affecting wind and rainfall patterns in the tropics. Another factor includes cooler ocean temperatures which weaken the ability of storms to gain strength.
Hurricane season runs from the beginning of June to the end of November with August, September and October typically considered the height of the season for storm activity.
Bell cautioned that despite the prediction, it only takes one storm to cause devastation, as Hurricane Andrew did in 1992, also in a season predicted to be below normal. Residents in coastal cities must still remain prepared every year, he said.
“We’re not expecting the season to be dead. There’s still going to be hurricanes,” Bell said. “The threat is there.”