AccuWeather experts are calling for an above-normal hurricane season in 2016, with 14 named storms forecast for the Atlantic basin. Of those, eight are predicted to become hurricanes, and four are predicted to become major hurricanes.
Because of a combination of factors, this season is expected to be more active than any season in the last three years. Experts say those living along the Atlantic coast should be on alert.
"During the early part of the season, of course, we look off the Southeast coast of the United States, where we've already had one with Bonnie, but we also look in the Gulf of Mexico, especially the northwestern portion of the Caribbean into the Gulf of Mexico," AccuWeather Atlantic Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said. "Those are two areas that we're watching very closely, and those are the prime areas."
For months, meteorologists have been monitoring the possibility for the El Niño weather pattern to transition to a La Niña, a change that would have a significant impact on how active the season becomes. Earlier this spring, it was unclear whether or not this transition would occur, but experts say it's now looking more likely.
La Niña is characterized by below-normal water temperatures in the Pacific Ocean near the equator. When this occurs, less wind shear is found in the developmental regions of the Atlantic, increasing the potential for a higher-than-normal amount of tropical systems.
"There's even more information now strongly suggesting that there's at least a 75- to 80-percent chance that we will go into a La Niña pattern," Kottlowski said. "Historically, some hurricane seasons that have followed a transition from El Niño to La Niña have been very active. It's possible we could flip from one extreme to the other, from below-normal seasons the past three years to an above-normal year in 2016."
The 2015 Atlantic hurricane season yielded 11 named storms, of which four became hurricanes and two became major hurricanes.
Historical data indicate seasons that are active during the months of May, June, and July have a higher likelihood of becoming a normal or above-normal season.
Meteorologists are monitoring the northwestern Caribbean and eastern Gulf of Mexico for potential development this week. Should a storm develop, it will take the name Colin.
Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.