The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a "near-normal" 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, with nine to 15 named storms.
Forecasters said that four to eight of those storms will become hurricanes and two to four of those would become major hurricanes with 111 mph winds or higher.
Acting NOAA administrator Neil Jacobs told reporters at the agency's aircraft operations center in Lakeland, Florida, that the outlook reflects competing climate factors. The ongoing El Niño, a periodic natural warming of the central Pacific that changes weather worldwide, is expected to persist and suppress hurricane activity in the Atlantic. But, warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and an enhanced west African monsoon, both of which favor increased hurricane activity, will counter that, Jacobs said.
Forecasters noted that their outlook does not suggest all of these hurricanes will make landfall.
NOAA said there's a 40% chance of a normal season, with 30% chances of both stronger and weaker seasons.
"That's still a lot of activity," said NOAA forecaster Gerry Bell. "You need to start to prepare for hurricane season now."
Hurricane season traditionally begins June 1 and runs through November, but this week subtropical storm Andrea briefly popped up, marking the fifth straight year a named storm came in May or earlier.
The Atlantic Basin annual average is 12 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes.
Last year's active season saw 15 named storms and eight hurricanes including two Category 4 hurricanes, Florence and Michael. Michael made landfall on the Florida Panhandle as one of the strongest storms ever to hit the United States, with its highest winds reaching 155 mph. Those two big storms hit the U.S. and together directly killed 38 people and caused $49 billion in damages.
Just in: NOAA Atlantic #HurricaneSeason Outlook 2019 predicts 70% likelihood of 9-15 named storms of which 4-8 could become hurricanes, including 2-4 major hurricanes. More at https://t.co/18Jafmlnsv @NWS pic.twitter.com/BtW1fv6jIC— NOAA (@NOAA) May 23, 2019