MIAMI Aug 8 The 2013 Atlantic hurricane season
is still on track to be "above normal" but "extreme levels of
activity" are less likely, the top U.S. government climate
agency said on Thursday.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said the
six-month season, which began on June 1 and will soon enter its
peak, could still be "very active" and spawn 13 to 19 named
storms, six to nine of which were expected to become hurricanes.
In an earlier pre-season forecast, issued in May, NOAA had
predicted up to 20 named storms and said as many as 11 of them
could become hurricanes. At that time it warned that the
hurricane season could be "extremely active."
In its May forecast, NOAA predicted as many as six major
hurricanes at Category 3 or above. It trimmed that total to no
more than five in its latest forecast.
The average Atlantic hurricane season brings 12 tropical
storms with six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.
"The updated outlook is similar to the pre-season outlook
issued in May, but with a reduced expectation for extreme levels
of activity," NOAA said.
It cited a reduced probability that this year will see a
development of the La Nina weather phenomenon as one of the
reasons for the slightly reduced forecast.
La Nina is associated with cooler than normal water
temperatures in the Equatorial Pacific Ocean and can cause
reduced wind shear over the tropical Atlantic Ocean that further
strengthens the hurricane season.
Another factor behind the slightly more benign forecast was
the lack of any hurricanes in July and more variability in wind
patterns over the tropical Atlantic, NOAA said.
Last year's season spawned 19 tropical storms, 10 of which
became hurricanes. Two of them grew into major hurricanes,
including Superstorm Sandy, which NOAA said caused more than 200
deaths and more than $50 billion in damage in the United States.
(Reporting by Tom Brown; editing by Andrew Hay)