(Reuters) – The Atlantic hurricane season will produce an average number of ocean storms and hurricanes this year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Thursday.
NOAA forecasters estimate 12 to 17 named storms, of which five to nine will develop into hurricanes and one to four will become major hurricanes during the June 1 to November 30 season.
A tropical storm produces sustained winds of at least 39 miles per hour, a hurricane has winds of at least 74 mph, and major hurricanes pack winds of at least 111 miles per hour and can cause devastating damage.
Last year broke a six-year streak of above-normal hurricane seasons and the strongest that year was Hurricane Ian, which packed 150 mph winds and battered Florida and South Carolina.
There is a 40% chance of a normal hurricane season and a 30% chance each of an above- or below-average season, NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said in a media briefing.
NOAA estimates a 93% chance of an El Nino weather phenomenon during the hurricane season, said Matthew Rosencrans, NOAA’s lead hurricane forecaster.
During El Nino, winds blowing west along the equator slow down, and warm water is pushed east, creating warmer ocean surface temperatures and the potential for stronger storms.