Pacific hurricane season normal or above normal

The U.S. Climate Prediction Center says that a near-normal or above-normal hurricane season is likely for the eastern Pacific this year. The outlook calls for a 50 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 10 percent chance of a below-normal season.

Seasonal hurricane forecasters are calling for a 70 percent chance of 14 to 20 named storms, which includes 7 to 11 hurricanes, of which 3 to 6 are expected to become major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale).

An average eastern Pacific hurricane season produces 15 named storms, with eight becoming hurricanes and four becoming major hurricanes. The eastern Pacific hurricane season runs from May 15 through Nov. 30, with peak activity from July through September.

“The key climate factor behind the outlook is the likely development of El Niño this summer. El Niño decreases the vertical wind shear over the eastern tropical Pacific, favoring more and stronger tropical storms and hurricanes,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with the Climate Prediction Center, part of the U.S. National Weather Service. “The eastern Pacific has been in an era of low activity for hurricanes since 1995, but this pattern will be offset in 2014 by the impacts of El Niño.”

Climate signals point to a potentially active hurricane season for the eastern Pacific this year, making preparedness more important than ever, he said. He encouraged the public to take time now to learn their personal risk, build an emergency kit and develop a contingency plan to ensure their resiliency in the face of wind, rain, flooding and storm surge that a hurricane may bring.

The first hurricane already is in the Pacific off the southern coast of México. Hurricane Amanda is expected to weaken considerably today.

The outlook is a general guide to the overall seasonal hurricane activity. It does not predict whether, where, or when any of these storms may hit land. Eastern Pacific tropical storms and hurricanes most often track westward over open waters, sometimes reaching Hawaii. However, some occasionally head toward the northeast and may bring rainfall to the arid southwestern United States during the summer or fall. Also, on average, two to three storms per season affect western Mexico or Central America.

The center’s hurricane outlook for the central Pacific basin calls for a near-normal or above-normal season while the Atlantic basin is expected to be near-normal or below-normal.

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