Thanks, El Niño: Only one or two major hurricanes expected this year

Only one or two major hurricanes are expected to form in the Atlantic Ocean this year

Enough crazy weather already: You can expect an average or below-average hurricane season starting in June, national forecasters said Thursday.

In a radical year of weather -- from severe drought in California to brutal, will-it-ever-end winter across much of the U.S. -- only one or two major hurricanes are expected to appear in the Atlantic Ocean during the six-month period starting in June, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center.

The Atlantic has seen above-normal seasons over 12 of the last 20 years, and NOAA meteorologists said this year's forecast is a result of the calming effect the Pacific Ocean is expected to have on its typically more dangerous Atlantic cousin.

The recurring warm-water phenomenon known as El Niño has a better-than-average chance of appearing in the Pacific this year, which would affect the world's weather.

What that might mean is more rain for California and the Southern U.S. next year, higher global temperatures and a relatively placid hurricane season this year, due to the type of winds an El Niño brings to the Atlantic.

"The expectation of near-average Atlantic Ocean temperatures this season, rather than the above-average temperatures seen since 1995, also suggests fewer Atlantic hurricanes," said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with the Climate Prediction Center, in a statement.

That doesn't mean the East Coast and the Caribbean can take it easy, however. "Even though we expect El Niño to suppress the number of storms this season, it’s important to remember it takes only one landfalling storm to cause a disaster,” said NOAA's administrator, Kathryn Sullivan. 

NOAA is calling for one or two major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or greater, and three to six hurricanes overall. The agency says the season is likely to see a total of eight to 13 "named storms," meaning systems with winds of 39 mph or greater -- enough to put boats and vacations in danger.

There's a 50% chance the hurricane season will be below normal, 40% it will be normal, and a 10% chance the season will actually be more violent than usual.

But the forecasts could be wrong. After all, 2013 was expected to be an "active" hurricane season, but it turned out to be the weakest since 1994, with only two storms reaching Category 1 status, the weakest of the hurricane categories.

"It only takes one hurricane or tropical storm making landfall to have disastrous impacts on our communities," Joe Nimmich, Federal Emergency Management Agency associate administrator for response and recovery, said in a statement released with Thursday's forecast. "Just last month, Pensacola, Fla., saw five inches of rain in 45 minutes – without a tropical storm or hurricane."

Nimmich added, "We need you to be ready."


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