Busy Atlantic hurricane season forecast

12/31/1969 07:00 EST | Updated 01/06/2012 05:12 EST

The Atlantic hurricane season this year will produce an above-average 12 to 18 named storms, and six to 10 of them will likely become hurricanes, the U.S. National Weather Service said Thursday.

Three to six of the forecast hurricanes are expected to be major, meaning a minimum Category 3 hurricane with wind speeds of at least 178 kilometres an hour, the service said.

Weather officials in the U.S. say the Atlantic coast is unlikely to escape as lightly as it did last year during hurricane season. In fact, if the forecast is accurate, this season will be busier than usual.

Need to be ready

"Winds steered most of the season’s tropical storms and all hurricanes away from our coastlines,” said Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said of the 2010 season.

“However, we can’t count on luck to get us through this season. We need to be prepared, especially with this above-normal outlook.”

Forecasters list several reasons for the more active hurricane outlook:

- The Atlantic Ocean surface water temperature is up to 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than average.

- The impact of the weather phenomenon La Nina is expected to linger into hurricane season.

- Seasonal climate models suggest an above-normal hurricane season is likely.

The U.S. weather service said it can't predict in advance exactly when or where hurricanes will track, saying the landfall details depend on weather patterns in place when the storms approach.

It's not uncommon for some Atlantic hurricanes to track the eastern seaboard as they head north, lashing Atlantic Canada with high winds and drenching rain.

Hurricane season is considered to be from June 1 until the end of November.