Forecasters warned on Thursday that oceanic and atmospheric conditions now point to an “above-normal” hurricane season as the peak of the season begins to arrive.
In its mid-season outlook, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said that after developing last fall, El Niño, which typically suppresses Atlantic hurricane activity, has ended — likely resulting in a busier, and potentially more destructive and costly, hurricane season.
NOAA said it increased the chances of an above-normal hurricane season to 45 percent, up from 30 percent in its May outlook. The chance of a below-normal season, meanwhile, dropped to 20 percent.
That means there could be an increased number of storms: Currently, NOAA is predicting between 10 to 17 named storms, with winds of 39 mph or higher. Of those storms, between five to nine are expected to become hurricanes, with winds higher than 74 mph, with up to four major hurricanes, with winds of 111 mph.
The average hurricane season from June to November in the Atlantic produces about 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major ones. Peak hurricane season last from August to October.
Not only do hurricanes pose a big threat to individuals — the Congressional Budget Office estimates that 1.2 million Americans who live in coastal communities are at risk — but they are among the most damaging and expensive natural disasters.
Hurricane damage is expected to continue to increase because of climate change and coastal development, according to the CBO, ultimately rising to $70 billion in 2075 alone — $40 billion higher than the average annual cost.
Last year, two major destructive hurricanes swept through the U.S.
Hurricane Michael, a Category 5 hurricane that made landfall in Florida, caused an estimated $25.1 billion in damage, including $100 million in economic losses in Central America, in September. And Hurricane Florence, a Category 1 hurricane that made landfall in North Carolina, cost about $25 billion, becoming one of the most expensive hurricanes in U.S. history.
More than 53 people died as a result of Florence, and Michael left 36 people dead.