By Elizabeth Chuck, Staff Writer, NBC News
Batten down the hatches.
Forecasters said Wednesday that the 2013 Atlantic hurricane season is likely to be “above normal and possibly extremely active,” predicting three to six major hurricanes this season.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said in its outlook that it forecast seven to 11 Atlantic hurricanes for the 2013 season, which officially begins on June 1.
“NOAA predicts an above normal and possibly an extremely active hurricane season with a range of 13 to 20 named storms,” seven to 11 of which are forecast to turn into hurricanes and three to six of which are forecast to turn into major hurricanes, said Kathryn Sullivan, acting NOAA administrator.
Major hurricanes are defined as Category 3 or above, with winds of more than 110 mph.
The last time a major hurricane made landfall in the U.S. was Wilma, in 2005, according to the Associated Press. The seven-year landfall drought is the longest in the U.S. on record, The AP reports.
Hurricane Sandy was downgraded to tropical storm status just before it made landfall in New Jersey last October. Sandy caused $50 billion in damage.
In this handout satellite image provided by NASA, Hurricane Sandy off the East Coast as it moves north on Oct. 28, 2012 in the Atlantic Ocean.
The numbers for 2013 are above the seasonal average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes. Last year was the third-busiest storm season on record.
NOAA’s seasonal hurricane outlook does not predict how many storms will hit land or where the storms will strike; it only provides an overview of the season.
“With the devastation of Sandy fresh in our minds, and another active season predicted, everyone at NOAA is committed to providing life-saving forecasts in the face of these storms and ensuring that Americans are prepared and ready ahead of time,” Sullivan said.
Several climate factors are contributing to the upcoming season being busier, forecasters said.
“These factors include a continuation of the climate pattern that has been responsible for the ongoing era of high activity in the Atlantic that began in 1995; warmer than average sea-surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea; and near-normal, year-average seasonal temperatures in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which means El Nino … is not expected to develop and suppress hurricane formation this hurricane season,” Sullivan said.
Atlantic hurricane season lasts for six months, typically peaking between late August and mid-October.
“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. “These conditions include weaker wind shear, warmer Atlantic waters and conducive winds patterns coming from Africa.”