NOAA Predicts Near-Normal 2016 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Image: Year in Space 09-Hurricane
Kelly tweeted a picture of Hurricane Patricia approaching Mexico on Oct. 23, saying "It's massive. Be careful!"Scott Kelly / NASA

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By Ben Rappaport

As an area of low pressure off the North Carolina coast threatens to graduate to tropical storm status, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said to be ready for as many as 16 named storms this season.

NOAA's Climate Prediction center says there is a 70 percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms, a normal dose for the Atlantic hurricane season.

Hurricane Sandy bears down on the Eastern seaboard on October 28, 2012.Robert Simmon / NASA Earth Observatory

“This is a more challenging hurricane season outlook than most because it’s difficult to determine whether there will be reinforcing or competing climate influences on tropical storm development," said Dr. Gerry Bell, NOAA's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster.

Related: Flood Problems Just Beginning as Rain Finally Heads Out of the South

The NOAA claims while a near-normal season is most likely with a 45 percent chance, there is also a 30 percent chance of an above-normal season and a 25 percent chance of a below-normal season, so no prediction is set in stone.

A near-normal hurricane season isn't as mild as the name would suggest. Besides the 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), four to eight could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), and one to four of those have a chance of turning into major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or higher).

"A near-normal prediction for this season suggests we could see more hurricane activity than we’ve seen in the last three years, which were below normal,” said Bell.

Already, the Atlantic could soon have its second tropical storm of 2016. The National Hurricane Center said there is an 80 percent that an area of low pressure in the western Atlantic could turn into Tropical Depression or Tropical Storm Bonnie this weekend.