Federal forecasters have softened their prediction of an extreme storm season, trimming back the number of hurricanes they expect this year to between six and nine.
That's a small drop from the seven to 11 hurricanes originally forecast in May, but the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's newer projections still threaten a highly active season.
"Our confidence for an above-normal season is still high because the predicted atmospheric and oceanic conditions that are favorable for storm development have materialized," Gary Bell, NOAA's lead hurricane forecaster, said this week.
The forecast calls for three to five major hurricanes, with winds of at least 111 mph and 13 to 20 named storms.
An average year brings 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.
NOAA said the forecast was pared back because La Niña, an atmospheric pattern that can strengthen hurricanes, has become less likely to emerge. Wind patterns have also become less conducive to hurricane development.
But NOAA cautioned that a strong rainy season in West Africa and above-average Atlantic sea surface temperatures could still produce serious storms.
The peak of hurricane season arrives in mid-August and lasts through October.