WASHINGTON D.C. — Forecasters from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are predicting that a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season is most likely for 2009. The NOAA’s initial outlook for the 2009 Atlantic hurricane season calls for a 50 percent probability of a near-normal season, a 25 percent probability of an above-normal season and a 25 percent probability of a below-normal season.
Global weather patterns are imposing a greater uncertainty in the 2009 hurricane season outlook than in recent years. Forecasters say there is a 70 percent chance of having nine to 14 named storms, of which four to seven could become hurricanes, including one to three major hurricanes of Category 3, 4 or 5. The first storm of 2009 will be named Ana.
Shaping this seasonal outlook is the possibility of competing climate factors. Supporting more activity this season are conditions associated with the ongoing high-activity era that began in 1995, which include enhanced rainfall over West Africa, warmer Atlantic waters and reduced wind shear. But activity could be reduced if El Nino develops in the equatorial Eastern Pacific this summer or if ocean temperatures in the eastern tropical Atlantic remain cooler than normal.
NOAA scientists will continue to monitor evolving conditions in the tropics and issue an updated hurricane outlook in early August, just prior to what is historically the peak period for hurricane activity.
As of May 22, satellite images indicated showers and thunderstorms associated with a broad area of low pressure over the North-Central Gulf of Mexico were increasing. Slow development of the system was possible, but the NOAA said there was a less than 30 percent chance of tropical cyclone development before the system hits the Gulf Coast, bringing heavy rain and winds.