The center, which tracks the storms and issues this forecast annually, more specifically predicts that there will be three to seven "major" -- Category Three strength or higher -- hurricanes, with wind speeds of at least 111 miles per hour. In total, expect between 14 and 23 named storms (wind speeds of at least 39 m.p.h.), of which 8 to 14 will become hurricanes (wind speeds of at last 74 m.p.h.).
The rationale for this busier-than-usual prediction, which is 70 percent probable, is based on a couple of factors. The statement, for example, notes that upper atmospheric winds are more conducive for storm creation; wind shear is weakened due to the dissipation of El Nino in the Eastern Pacific. Also, sea surface temperatures are expected to remain above average, which fuels storms.
Last year, NOAA predicted that the 2009 hurricane season would be "near normal" and, indeed, it was one of the quieter years on record (read a full recap in Cruise Critic's own Hurricane Zone). Nine named storms formed in the Atlantic last year, which was on target with the low end of the NOAA's predicted range of 9 to 14 storms. Of the three hurricanes that formed, only two were major.
As a result, cruise itineraries -- key Atlantic hurricane season spots include the Caribbean, Bermuda, the Bahamas and Atlantic Canada -- were minimally impacted. However, that looks not to be the case this year ... at least if NOAA's predictions are accurate.
A few key things to keep in mind: Peak periods vary geographically; in the Eastern Caribbean and along the U.S. East Coast, the season tends to be busiest between mid-August and mid-September. In the Western Caribbean, it picks up in mid-September and stretches into early November. You're almost guaranteed to find a named storm somewhere, though, on September 10, which is historically the most active day of the season.
--by Carolyn Spencer Brown, Editor in Chief
Fan Cruise Critic on Facebook!
Follow Cruise Critic on Twitter!