The 2011 Atlantic hurricane season will bring an above-average 12 to 18 named storms, and six to 10 of them will likely become hurricanes, the Canadian Hurricane Centre said Thursday.

Chris Fogarty, program supervisor for the centre in Dartmouth, N.S., said Thursday that by comparison, there were 12 hurricanes last year.

Although fewer hurricanes are expected than last year, Fogarty said people who live along the Atlantic coast should not be complacent because there is no way to predict how many will hit the region.

But, he said, the good news is that as the storms move north they will encounter water temperatures off the Canadian coast that are at normal or below normal levels, which decreases a hurricane's strength.

The U.S. National Weather Service has delivered virtually the same message about the hurricane season.

It said that three to six of the forecast hurricanes are expected to be major, meaning a minimum Category 3 hurricane with wind speeds of at least 178 kilometres an hour.

Weather officials in the U.S. say the Atlantic coast is unlikely to escape as lightly as it did last year during hurricane season. In fact, if the forecast is accurate, this season will be busier than usual.

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How accurate?

"Regarding accuracy it’s easy to do a comparison," Karen Matthews from CBC Weather Centre says. "For example, last year’s predictions were bang on."

Last year the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast eight to 14 hurricanes and there were 12.

It forecast three to seven major hurricanes and there were five.

 

Need to be ready

"Winds steered most of the season’s tropical storms and all hurricanes away from our coastlines," said Jane Lubchenco, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said of the 2010 season. 

"However, we can’t count on luck to get us through this season. We need to be prepared, especially with this above-normal outlook."

Forecasters list several reasons for the more active hurricane outlook:

  • The Atlantic Ocean surface water temperature is up to 1.1 degrees Celsius warmer than average.
  • The impact of the weather phenomenon La Nina is expected to linger into hurricane season.
  • Seasonal climate models suggest an above-normal hurricane season is likely.  

The U.S. weather service said it can't predict exactly when or where hurricanes will track, saying the landfall details depend on weather patterns in place when the storms approach.

It's not uncommon for some Atlantic hurricanes to track the eastern seaboard as they head north, lashing Atlantic Canada with high winds and drenching rain. 

Hurricane season is considered to be from June 1 until the end of November.