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Early 2017 Atlantic hurricane forecasts fewer storms

Posted at 11:17 AM, Apr 07, 2017

The beginning of hurricane season may still be a little less than two months away, but that's not stopping some meteorological entities from making predictions about how the season will shake out.

Both Dr. Philip Klotzbach of Colorado State University and Accuweather released their early outlooks this week, and while those long-term forecasts share minor differences, the thinking behind them is similar.

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Both forecasts are calling for a slightly below average season. Accuweather says 10 while Colorado State's Research Scientist says 11. The average is 11.3.

As for the number of hurricanes, Accuweather says five, three of which will be major, and Dr. Klotzbach says four, two of which will be at least a category three. The Atlantic produces an average of 6.2 hurricanes in a season with an average of 2.3 major hurricanes.

Both forecasts cite a developing El Niño as the reason for a slightly slower hurricane season.

El Niños typically prevent any tropical storm development in the Atlantic by causing more wind shear where tropical storms form.

An El Niño hasn't formed yet, but current forecasts are predicting a little better than 50 percent chance one could form as summer begins to wind down and hurricane season peaks.

Because an El Niño hasn't formed, it's a big unknown for the entire forecast.

If an El Niño fails to develop, all of these numbers may be a little higher. At the other end of the spectrum, if an El Niño develops and strengthens, it could end the hurricane season much earlier than expected with storm numbers falling short of those forecasts.

The National Hurricane Center is expected to release its seasonal hurricane outlook near the end of May, which will be one more forecast to give us a better idea what we can expect from the Atlantic hurricane season this year.