Hurricane Forecast Revised Downward

The quiet hurricane season has the experts at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicting fewer hurricanes than they were expecting before the season started. Jim Bell reports.

From nine to 14 named storms, and four to seven hurricanes predicted in May, they now expect seven to 11 named storms, and only three to six hurricanes. NOAA's lead hurricane forecaster Gerry Bell says it's because of El Niño, that huge area of warm water that comes and goes periodically in the eastern and central Pacific Ocean.

"El Niño has now formed and is already affecting the wind and air pressure patterns in the global tropics. El Niño typically suppresses the Atlantic hurricane activity, so because El Niño is now formed and is already affecting conditions, we've lowered the expected activity for the hurricane season."

Bell says El Niño's opposite, La Niña, with cooler Pacific waters, creates Atlantic conditions that are highly conducive for tropical storms.

Bell also says it's not unusual to go nearly two and a half months into the hurricane season with no tropical storms at all.

"Typically you have very little activity during June and July. On average one to two named storms form during June and July. The biggest storms that strike the U.S. do occur during August, September and October. That's the normal peak of the hurricane season."

Bell says that's why people need to keep their guards up. He says plenty of hurricanes have hit the U.S. mainland during El Niño years, and it's always important to have a hurricane preparedness plan and plenty of emergency supplies on hand.  Jim Bell, KUHF, Houston Public Radio News.

For more information about NOAA's prediction on the 2009 hurricane season, visit http://www.noaanews.noaa.gov/stories2009/20090806_hurricaneupdate.html.

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Animation of El Niño in Pacific. (Credit: NOAA)