Canadian forecasters are warning warmer-than-average ocean waters and the lack of an El Nino warming of the central Pacific Ocean will contribute to an "active" hurricane season this year.

Environment Canada's annual forecast, released Friday in Dartmouth, N.S., comes a day after forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in the U.S. said there could be 13 to 20 named Atlantic storms this year, of which seven to 11 could become hurricanes, including three to six major hurricanes.

Chris Fogarty, a program supervisor for the Canadian Hurricane Centre, said those numbers are "well above" the seasonal average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

"Really things don't get going until August – halfway through August," he said. "The forecast does not necessarily correlate to what we're going to see in Canada."

While the numbers are high, forecasters can't predict how many will actually hit Canadian soil.

"The main thing is that people need to understand the risk or vulnerability that they may have to their particular property," he said. "Think ahead, longer term." 

The Canadian Hurricane Centre said regardless of the number of hurricanes forecast, it responds to four or five tropical cyclone events each year, with one or two of those affecting Canada and another two or three threatening our offshore waters.

Hurricane patterns

Fogarty said the high prediction isn't the result of global warming, but a 25-year hurricane cycle. He said this is the mid to latter part of that cycle, and in a few years, the number of big storms will likely taper off.

No matter what point in the cycle, he said there's always a risk. He points to 1992, when Hurricane Andrew struck Florida during what was considered to be a slow year.

"It only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it a bad season," said Fogarty.

Last year, NOAA predicted nine to 15 hurricanes. There ended up being about 18, Fogarty said. He said many factors could change this year's final tally.

"The whole Atlantic basin is a very large area, but it really is almost impossible to predict which portion of the basin might be favourable for a landfall strike," he said. "At this stage in the game, we're just talking about the overall picture."