(WPRI) — Hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin runs from June 1 to November 30.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the National Hurricane Center released their forecast for the upcoming season and they’re expecting a near-average season with 12 to 17 named storms, 5 to 9 hurricanes and 1 to 4 major hurricanes (winds of 111mph or greater).

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When making a seasonal hurricane forecast, the National Hurricane Center looks to the ocean for clues.

One of those clues is whether we have an El Nino or La Nina in place. These are weather/ocean phenomena in the Pacific Ocean where warmer-than-normal temperatures are found for El Nino and cooler-than-normal temperatures for a La Nina. We currently have an El Nino developing.

With an El Nino, we will typically get a lot of wind shear which can prevent tropical systems from developing…basically, the winds blow the tops off of storms. With La Ninas, like we’ve had the past few years, there’s less wind shear and storms can blossom more easily.

Also, we look at the water temperatures. Tropical systems feed on warm water…usually above 80F. As the ocean warms through the summer, there will be more and more fuel for storms to strengthen. If the water temperatures are warmer than average (which they are across the Atlantic), storms can strengthen more easily.

The first name for the season will be Arlene followed by Bret, Cindy and Don. Tropical systems are named when they reach tropical storm strength (winds greater than 39mph).

This is the time to prepare for a hurricane…not as a hurricane approaches. Prepare storm kits with non-perishable food, water, medicines, cash, insurance papers…anything important that you can grab quickly if you need to leave your home when a storm threatens.

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