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NOAA predicts up to 9 potential hurricanes this year

STORY: Meteorologists expect up to nine hurricanes across the Atlantic Ocean this season.

That projection on Thursday by the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is average for the Atlantic hurricane season --

-- but it likely guarantees a major storm between June and November.

[Rick Spinrad / NOAA Administrator]

"For the range of storms expected, NOAA calls for the following: 12 to 17 named storms with top winds of at least 39 miles per hour. Of these, five to nine are forecast to become hurricanes, with maximum winds of at least 74 miles per hour. This includes one to four major hurricanes ranking as Category three or above and winds of at least 111 miles per hour.”

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Last year broke a six-year stretch of above average hurricane seasons.

Matthew Rosencrans, the NOAA’s lead hurricane outlook forecaster, said that El Niño, combined with a high Sea Surface Temperature makes this season especially difficult to predict.

[Matthew Rosencrans / NOAA Lead Hurricane Season Outlook Forecaster]

“We are also in an active era and having a strong El Niño with an active era and such warm SST I've only seen it one other time in history. There's not a lot of analog evidence for it.”

During El Niño, winds blowing west along the equator slow down, and warm water is pushed east, creating warmer surface ocean temperatures and the potential for stronger storms.

Rosencrans says the Atlantic Ocean surface temperature is warmer than last year and as high as it was in 2020.

And, he estimates a 93% chance of an El Niño weather phenomenon during the height of hurricane season.