Lower chance of El Niño this year means higher risk of busy hurricane season

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June 11 (UPI) -- Federal forecasters predicted Thursday there's less of a chance that an El Niño will form this year, bumping up the chances that an already-above-average Atlantic hurricane season will be more active.

El Niño conditions mean sea water in the Pacific Ocean is warmer than average, suppressing hurricane activity. On the other end of the spectrum, La Niña conditions mean colder sea water and an increased hurricane activity.

Both fall under what's known as the El Niño-Southern Oscillation climate pattern. When that pattern doesn't include either unusually warm or unusually cold sea water, it's known as ENSO-neutral.

The Climate Prediction Center said there's a 60 percent chance the Pacific Ocean will be ENSO-neutral during the summer months. And there's an equal chance of La Niña and ENSO-neutral conditions during the autumn in the northern hemisphere, potentially making for a more active Atlantic hurricane season.

The season has already included three named storms -- Arthur, Bertha and Cristobal -- all three of which formed before the official start of the season on June 1.

The Climate Prediction Center predicted an above-normal 2020 Atlantic hurricane season in May. The agency, operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said there will be between 13 and 19 named storms this year, six to 10 of which will become hurricanes. Of those, three to six will strengthen to major hurricanes -- Category 3 or higher.

A typical hurricane season produces 12 named storms, six of which become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

The NOAA predictions fall in line with forecasts by Colorado State University and AccuWeather scientists.

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