A graph shows the temperature of the ocean this year, compared to 2005.
A graph shows the temperature of the ocean this year, compared to 2005. NOAA
Warm waters in the Atlantic and winds from Africa can conspire to create powerful hurricanes.
Warm waters in the Atlantic and winds from Africa can conspire to create powerful hurricanes. NOAA
National Hurricane Center forecasters release new predictions for the 2006 hurricane season, dropping the number of expected hurricanes from estimates made in May. But the new numbers are only slightly lower, with a range of 7-9 hurricanes instead of 8-10 storms.
One possible bright spot in the new estimates is the number of predicted major hurricanes, which dropped from a range of 4-6 for the season to 3-4.
With three tropical storms already identified, scientists expect to see an additional 9-12 named storms. No hurricanes have occurred as of yet.
In explaining the change, scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said three factors were at work: slightly milder oceanic conditions; altered rainfall patterns; and a change in prevailing conditions along the U.S. eastern coast from 2005.
One mitigating factor, scientists said, is that temperature oscillations in the Pacific Ocean, in the form of either El Nino or La Nina, seem to be neutral at this point. Since 1995, the two years that featured milder hurricane seasons also had strong El Nino temperature patterns: 1997 and 2002.
Still, researchers expect the 2006 season to be more active than normal, as has been the case in 9 of the past 11 years. Analyzing the likelihood of a below-average storm season, they put the chances at just 5 percent.
The hurricane season officially ends on Nov. 30.