Hurricane experts at the Pennsylvania-based AccuWeather are predicting 14 named storms this hurricane season, with three making U.S. landfalls.
Eight of the storms are forecast to be hurricanes, four of which could be major hurricanes. A major hurricane is considered one that is Category 3 or stronger.
AccuWeather released its 2016 hurricane forecast this morning.
Dan Kottlowski, AccuWeather’s lead hurricane forecaster, said one wildcard in this year’s forecast is a cold area of ocean in the northern Atlantic.
If the cooler water migrates southward across the eastern Atlantic and into the tropical cyclone breeding grounds, it will lower sea surface temperatures, limiting storm development.
“This area of colder water started to show up a few years ago and has become larger and more persistent during the past couple of years,” Kottlowski said. “The big question is whether we will go into a La Niña, which is what we’re anticipating right now.”
La Niña is characterized by less wind shear over the Atlantic, meaning more hurricanes could form.
A strong El Niño during the 2015 hurricane season helped protect the U.S. from storms by cutting them down before they could form.
“It’s possible we could flip flop from one extreme to the other, from below-normal seasons the past three years to an above-normal year in 2016,” Kottlowski said.