A research team in Colorado issued predictions for a very active hurricane season this year. The Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University forecasts 17 tropical storms: Nine of them are predicted to be hurricanes, and five of those will have major force — Category 3, 4 or 5, with winds of 111 mph or more.
The researchers also forecast a 74 percent chance that at least one major hurricane will hit somewhere on the U.S. coast; 52 percent is the average probability over the past century.
An unexpected El Niño climate pattern lessoned storms last season, according to researchers. Now conditions more conducive to storms are in place.
El Niño is a periodic warming of Pacific Ocean waters off the coast of South America. It affects global weather and can send more wind and storms across the lower third of the United States and the Gulf. Its sudden and unexpected arrival last August short-circuited what most hurricane scientists thought would be an above-average year.
An opposite phenomenon, La Niña, appears to be forming, according to researchers. That could mean far less wind from the west to knock down tropical systems before they can turn into storms or hurricanes.
Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30; the busiest period is normally in late summer and early autumn. The Colorado researchers forecast predictions are based on global oceanic and atmospheric conditions.