"Active or extremely active."
That's the prediction for the 2013 hurricane season, according to the nation's forecaster, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center.
The hurricane season begins June 1, and generally lasts through September, though early- and late-season tropical storms are not unheard of. In 2013, the center predicts 13-20 named storms, of which 7-11 may reach hurricane strength. Of those, 3-6 could be major hurricanes, classified as Category 3, 4 or 5 based on their wind speed (over 111 mph). Forecasters give their prediction a 70% likelihood, and note that it presages a hurricane season with far more risk than average, which features 12 named storms and six hurricanes--three of them major.
There's no telling how many storms may strike land. Typically many storms form at sea and stay there, without damaging land.
In 2012, predictions for a below average season weren't correct, as 19 named storms produced 10 hurricanes, one of them major. Four made landfall, including Sandy, which did its damage on the New York-New Jersey area after losing hurricane strength.
In addition to patterns playing out over decades that suggest continuation of a pattern of strong hurricane activity, forecasters say warmer-than-average seas and the lack of an El Nino pattern in the Southern Pacific were strong influences on this year's forecast.
"This year, oceanic and atmospheric conditions in the Atlantic basin are expected to produce more and stronger hurricanes," said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.
Forecasts for the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season from academia and the private sector are broadly similar.
Accuweather predicts 16 named storms, eight of them hurricanes, and four of them major. It goes the extra step of predicting three U.S. landfalls. The Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University predicts 18 named storms, nine of them hurricanes and four of them major.
When the 2013 tropical storms and hurricanes do come, these will be their names:
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