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NOAA's GOES satellite shows Hurricane Irma as it moves towards the Florida Coast in the Caribbean Sea on September 07, 2017. Credit: NOAA via Getty Images

It's now officially hurricane season, and there's a lot of anxiety after last year's extraordinary devastation from several vicious storms.

What to watch: Forecasting groups including the U.S. government are calling for the likelihood of a near-average to slightly above-average season, though emerging signs may call for this projection to be revised downward mid-season.

The details: The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) projects there will likely be between 10 and 16 named storms this season, five to nine of which will be hurricanes, and one to four major hurricanes (Category 3 or greater) are expected.

Yes, but: As of June 1, sea surface temperatures in the so-called "Main Development Region," which is where most Atlantic hurricanes form, are running below average for this time of year. In fact, these waters are the coldest they've been at the start of hurricane season since May 1994. This would suggest that the season may be less active than usual.

Having said that, experts told Axios the season could still get more active. Here's why:

  • The Atlantic is still in an active cycle of tropical storms and hurricanes that began in 1995.
  • Colder than average sea surface temperatures likely resulted from prevailing winds around a persistent area of high pressure in the west-central Atlantic during April and May. That weather pattern could soon change, heating waters up quickly.
  • “The most effective way to change the sea surface temperature is to change the winds that are blowing across it,” says Jim Kossin, a hurricane researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
  • “There isn’t a very strong relationship between the anomalies now and the anomalies in August, which is when things really start to happen in the Atlantic," Kossin said.

Other hurricane specialists told Axios that the sea surface temperature pattern is still suggestive of below average hurricane activity, but could change as the peak of the season nears in August through September.

Atlantic Ocean sea surface temperature anomalies on June 1, 2018, showing the unusually cold area off the West Coast of Africa into the Caribbean. Credit: Weatherbell Analytics

The back story: Last year, 17 named storms formed in the Atlantic Ocean basin, 10 of which were hurricanes, and six were major hurricanes. The most active period last year was from late August through early October.

Recommendations to prepare:

  • FEMA Deputy Administrator Daniel Kaniewski urged those who could be affected by the hurricane season to download the FEMA app to stay up-to-date on alerts. He also suggested purchasing flood insurance.
  • There will be an update to the forecast in August, just before the peak of the season starts.

Go deeper: More about the past thirty years of Atlantic hurricanes.

Sign up for our Axios Science newsletter here.

Go deeper

Updated 54 mins ago - World

2 Americans accused of helping Ghosn escape in Japanese custody

Former Nissan chair Carlos Ghosn during a news conference in Jounieh, Lebanon, last September. Photo: Hasan Shaaban/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Two Americans accused of helping former Nissan chair Carlos Ghosn flee Japan in a box in 2019 were taken into Japanese custody after arriving at an airport near Tokyo Tuesday, per the Wall Street Journal.

Why it matters: The extradition of Michael Taylor, 60, a private security specialist and former Green Beret, and his son Peter Maxwell Taylor, 27, ends a months-long fight to remain in the U.S.

Rep. Rice demands Cuomo resign after 3rd woman accuses him of misconduct

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo during a February news conference in New York City. Photo: Seth Wenig/POOL/AFP via Getty Images

Rep. Kathleen Rice (D-N.Y.) on Monday evening called for New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) to resign, after a third woman accused him of inappropriate behavior.

Driving the news: Anna Ruch, a former member of the Obama administration and the 2020 Biden campaign, told the New York Times Monday that Cuomo asked to kiss her at a New York City wedding reception in September 2019.

Scoop: Inside the GOP's plan to retake the House

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy. Photo: Elijah Nouvelage/Bloomberg via Getty Images

House Republicans will reclaim their majority in 2022 by offering candidates who are women, minorities or veterans, a memo obtained by Axios says.

Why it matters: The document, drafted by a super PAC blessed by House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, names top Democrats to target — Jared Golden of Maine, Matt Cartwright of Pennsylvania and Ron Kind of Wisconsin — and the type of Republican candidates to beat them.