The Atlantic hurricane season is poised to deliver another round of above-normal storms for the seventh consecutive year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said on Tuesday.
NOAA forecasters estimate 14 to 21 named storms, six to 10 of which will become hurricanes, with three to six of those developing into major hurricanes during the June 1 to Nov. 30 season.
A tropical storm brings sustained winds of at least 39 miles per hour (63 kph), a hurricane has winds of at least 74 mph, and major hurricanes pack winds of at least 111 miles per hour and can bring devastating damage.
Last year’s 21 named Atlantic storms cost about $80.6 billion in insured damages in the United States, including Hurricane Ida, a Category 4 hurricane when it struck Louisiana, which continued to bring winds and flooding all the way to New York. It led to about $36 billion in losses.
Climate change is warming ocean temperatures that have led to more destructive and damaging storms, forecasters say.
This year’s warmer-than-average sea temperatures and trade wind patterns augur for an above-average season, NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said.
“We simply can’t point to a particular storm, a strong storm like Hurricane Ida, and say ‘there is climate change,'” Spinrad said of hurricane development. NOAA focuses on weather patterns, warming sea temperatures and west African monsoons “as the climatological factors we’re looking at” as key factors.
NOAA’s call for an above-average season follows Colorado State University’s outlook, which last month predicted 19 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes.
An average year generates 14 named storms and seven hurricanes. NOAA increased these numbers for a normal season last year after a recalculation, citing improved satellite monitoring and climate change.
Unseasonably high temperatures, warmer-than-average seas that provide energy for tropical cyclones and a La Nina weather pattern that is expected to persist this season all influenced the outlook, forecasters said.
(Reporting by Erwin Seba; editing by Gary McWilliams and Marguerita Choy)