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'Near- or Below-Normal' Hurricane Season Forecasted

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicts a near normal or below normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean in 2014. NOAA released its season forecast at on May 22.   

The main driver of this year's outlook is the anticipated development of El Nino this summer, NOAA said. El Nino causes stronger wind shear, which reduces the number and intensity of tropical storms and hurricanes. El Nino can also strengthen the atmospheric stability across the tropical Atlantic, making it more difficult for cloud systems coming off of Africa to intensify into tropical storms, the agency said.

For the six-month hurricane season, which began June 1, NOAA predicts a 70 percent likelihood of eight to 13 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which three to six could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including one or two major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph of higher).

These numbers are near or below the seasonal averages of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes based on the average from 1981 to 2010, NOAA said.

Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, said the Atlantic — which has seen above-normal seasons in 12 of the last 20 years — has been in an era of high activity for hurricanes since 1995. However, this high-activity pattern is expected to be offset in 2014 by the impacts of El Nino, and by cooler Atlantic Ocean temperatures than we've seen in recent years.

"Atmospheric and oceanic conditions across the tropical Pacific are already taking on some El Nino characteristics. Also, we are currently seeing strong trade winds and wind shear over the tropical Atlantic, and NOAA's climate models predict these conditions will persist, in part because of El Nino," Bell said. "The expectation of near average Atlantic Ocean temperatures this season, rather than the above average temperatures seen since 1995, also suggest fewer Atlantic hurricanes."

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