National hurricane forecasters predict a quieter-than-average North Atlantic hurricane season this year, much to the relief of coastal home insurance customers.
The expected approach this summer and fall of the first El Nino since 2009, combined with an atypical cooling of the Atlantic the past few months, has prompted The Weather Channel to predict:
- Eleven named storms.
- Five hurricanes.
- Two hurricanes reaching Category 3 or stronger.
The atmospheric scientists at Colorado State University also look for a relatively mild season. Last week, they predicted:
- Nine named storms.
- Three storms developing into hurricanes.
- One major hurricane.
Forecasts are below average
Both predictions are slightly below the long-range annual average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes. The North Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through Nov. 30.
The last major hurricane to hit the United States was Hurricane Wilma, which came ashore over southwestern Florida in 2005.
Last year's predicted above-average hurricane season failed to materialize. While Colorado forecast 18 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes, the season produced only two Cat 1 hurricanes: Humberto and Ingrid. Neither reached the United States.
Not that anyone complained.
The El Nino effect
Forecasters are a bit more confident in this year's prediction, due in part to the anticipated arrival of El Nino, the meteorological nickname for the warming of the central and eastern equatorial Pacific waters. When El Nino warms the eastern Pacific, it tends to increase eastbound wind shear, thus reducing the formation of tropical systems.
But place a huge asterisk next to the El Nino effect, because when it warms the central Pacific, it can increase storm formation in the Atlantic basin. After all, one El Nino year -- 1992 -- brought Cat 5 Hurricane Andrew to Miami, and another -- 2004 -- delivered "the big four" major hurricanes: Charley, Frances, Ivan and Jeanne.
Coastal residents still need to prepare
Whatever transpires in the coming months, now is a good time to pull out the seasonal checklist, lay in the emergency first-aid essentials and provisions, stock up on batteries, familiarize yourself with your local evacuation routes, and develop a plan to protect your family and pets.
Because no matter how the predictions unfold, even one hurricane can be a life-changer.
To protect your home and family, check out Bankrate's hurricane preparedness guide.
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