US predicts at least 12 named storms this hurricane season

This year could see one to four major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 178kmh or higher). VIA REUTERS

WASHINGTON - The United States National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Thursday predicted a “near normal” hurricane season, with 12 to 17 named storms packing winds of at least 63kmh.

Of those, five to nine could become hurricanes (winds of 119kmh or higher), including one to four major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 178kmh or higher).

NOAA said it has 70 per cent confidence in these ranges.

“With a changing climate, the data and expertise NOAA provides to emergency managers and partners to support decision-making before, during and after a hurricane has never been more crucial,” said NOAA administrator Rick Spinrad in a statement.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov 30, with NOAA predicting a 40 per cent chance of a near-normal season, a 30 per cent chance of an above-normal season and a 30 per cent chance of a below-normal season.

After three seasons with an atmospheric phenomenon called La Nina, NOAA predicts an El Nino to develop this summer, which has a suppressive effect on hurricane activity.

But this could be offset by more localised conditions favourable for hurricanes, such as an above-normal west African monsoon, “which produces African easterly waves and seeds some of the stronger and longer-lived Atlantic storms”, said NOAA.

Predicted warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea meanwhile add more energy to developing storms.

In 2022, Hurricane Ian in particular devastated Florida, killing dozens and causing more than US$100 billion (S$135 billion) in damage alone – by far the costliest weather disaster in the world in 2022.

In general, climate change is making hurricanes more powerful as they feed on warmer ocean surfaces, say scientists. AFP

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