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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

43 mins ago - Health

Fauci: Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in U.S.

Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, cautioned on Sunday that the COVID-19 Omicron variant will "inevitably" be found in the United States.

Driving the news: Fauci, Biden's chief medical adviser, told ABC's George Stephanopoulos on "This Week" that U.S. officials will meet with colleagues from South Africa later on Sunday to try to determine the severity of the cases, as countries scramble to learn more about the variant.

Updated 2 hours ago - Politics & Policy

Dems fear supply-chain blame

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

As supply-chain kinks drive up prices and disrupt holiday shopping, Democrats are scrambling to show action and deflect blame.

Why it matters: With their party controlling both the White House and Capitol, vulnerable Democrats worry supply-chain snafus will hurt them in next year's midterms.

3 hours ago - World

Scoop: Germany urges Congress not to sanction Putin’s pipeline

Photo: Mikhail Svetlov/Getty Images

The German government has urged members of Congress not to sanction the Nord Stream 2 pipeline, arguing that doing so will "weaken" U.S. credibility and "ultimately damage transatlantic unity," according to documents obtained by Axios.

Why it matters: At a time when roughly 100,000 Russian troops are massing at its border, Ukraine views Nord Stream 2 as an existential threat to its security. The pipeline would circumvent Ukrainian transit infrastructure and deliver Russian gas directly to Germany, eliminating one of the last deterrents Ukraine has against an invasion.