WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The 2008 Atlantic hurricane season will be active with 12 to 16 named storms, six to nine of which are expected to become hurricanes, the U.S. government’s top climate agency predicted on Thursday.
Of the six to nine hurricanes forecast for the season starting June 1, two to five will be major ones of Category 3 or higher with winds above 110 miles per hour, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in its annual preseason forecast.
After several years where the government forecast an active hurricane season would impact the United States, only to see little or no activity, NOAA said its outlook this year indicates a 60 to 70 percent chance of its forecast occurring.
“There is uncertainty in these outlooks,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
The hurricane season officially starts on June 1 and typically peaks between late August and mid-October.
An average Atlantic hurricane season brings 11 tropical storms, of which six reach hurricane wind speed of 74 mph (119 kph), including two major hurricanes, NOAA said.
NOAA said the La Nina phenomenon in the eastern Pacific is fading, but its impact would be felt for some time.
La Nina is an unusual cooling of Pacific Ocean surface temperatures that can trigger widespread changes in weather around the world.
It generally results in conditions that favor hurricanes in the Atlantic while its opposite effect, El Nino, generates wind shear that makes it difficult for hurricanes to stay together.
The United States has made it through largely unscathed during the last two years despite predictions for active seasons. During the 2007 hurricane season only one minor storm reached the United States a year after the country escaped any impact.
U.S. weather forecasters, including private and university researchers, also have predicted that 2008 will be an active hurricane season.
Reporting by Christopher Doering, editing by Jackie Frank