The 2016 Atlantic hurricane season officially began this week – and it’s expected to be the most active since 2012, according to current forecasts. Here’s what you can expect as you prepare for heavy weather.
A total of 14 named storms, eight hurricanes, and three major hurricanes (Category 3 or stronger) are expected this season. For comparison, the 30-year historical average is 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes for the Atlantic basin.
One thing to keep in mind: there is no strong correlation between the number of storms and U.S. landfalls in a given season. For instance, the 1992 season featured only six named storms – but one was named Hurricane Andrew, a Category 5 hurricane that hit South Florida hard. By contrast, 2010 was very active – including 19 named storms and 12 hurricanes – but only one tropical storm made landfall.
La Niña water temperatures could be the deciding factor on how active the season becomes. Meteorologists have been monitoring the possibility for the El Niño weather pattern to transition to a La Niña. La Niña is characterized by below-normal water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. This results in less wind shear in the Atlantic, increasing the potential for a higher-than-normal amount of tropical systems.