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Hurricane season could produce a few more named storms than predicted

An updated forecast with new totals was issued Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
Visitors walk the beaches along Pass-a-Grille on July 7 after Tropical Storm Elsa passed through. There has been a lull in tropical activity since then but it's expected to pick up now.
Visitors walk the beaches along Pass-a-Grille on July 7 after Tropical Storm Elsa passed through. There has been a lull in tropical activity since then but it's expected to pick up now. [ MARTHA ASENCIO-RHINE | AP ]
Published Aug. 4

A new revision to this season’s hurricane forecast projects a total of 15 to 21 named storms and seven to 10 hurricanes in 2021. Three to five of those storms are expected to reach Category 3 strength or higher.

A pre-season forecast called for 13 to 20 named storms, a minimum of six hurricanes and three to five major storms.

The update was announced Wednesday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Wednesday

While the increase is minimal, it reiterates that the Atlantic is likely in line for its sixth year in a row with an above-average number of storms. There’s been a lull in tropical activity since Elsa passed through the Gulf coast in mid-July but forecasters now say the storm season will ramp up as the traditional peak of Sept. 14 approaches.

“While the tropics have been relatively slow for the past few weeks, NOAA forecasters do anticipate a busy hurricane season remains ahead,” said Matthew Rosencrans, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s lead hurricane forecaster.

Rosencrans said during a webinar Wednesday that the latest prediction accounts for the season’s five named storms so far, including Elsa, which became the earliest fifth named storm on record.

Why the increase? Governmental meteorologists cited a number of reasons.

First, there is less vertical wind shear than normal this year, which means less friction to break down storms before they grow stronger. Monsoons in Africa, which create more favorable conditions for storms to form off its west coast, are stronger than usual this summer.

In addition, forecasters project that a La Niña weather pattern could form in the Pacific Ocean. The atmospheric phenomenon is known to reduce the wind shear in the Atlantic that helps break storms down. There is a 45% chance La Niña could form from August to October.

“A mix of competing oceanic and atmospheric conditions generally favor above-average activity for the remainder of the Atlantic hurricane season, including the potential return of La Niña in the months ahead,” Rosencrans said.

There is some good news for Floridians: Sea surface temperatures have been about average so far this season compared to above-average temperatures recorded last year. That should ward off a record-breaker like last year, when 30 named storms, 14 hurricanes and seven major hurricanes formed.

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