US forecasters raise Atlantic hurricane outlook

Forecasters watching system likely to become Tropical Storm Gordon

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - With another system on the verge of becoming the year's sixth tropical storm, U.S. forecasters are raising their estimate of potential storms in the remainder of the Atlantic hurricane season.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its updated forecast Thursday. Forecasters say wind patterns conducive to storm formation and warmer-than-normal sea temperatures mean chances are higher for an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season.

NOAA forecasters say they expect a total of 12 to 17 tropical storms, with as many as five to eight hurricanes, for the season from June 1 to Nov. 30. Two to three of storms could become major hurricanes.

So far this year there have been four tropical storms and two hurricanes.

"We are increasing the likelihood of an above-normal season because storm-conducive wind patterns and warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures are now in place in the Atlantic," said Gerry Bell, the lead hurricane season forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center. "These conditions are linked to the ongoing high activity era for Atlantic hurricanes that began in 1995. Also, strong early-season activity is generally indicative of a more active season."

This year was also the first time since 1908 that three named storms formed before the June 1 start of hurricane season.

In May, forecasters had predicted nine to 15 tropical storms, with as many as four to eight storms strengthening into hurricanes.

On Thursday afternoon, a new tropical depression formed in the tropical Atlantic  far from land. It was the seventh tropical depression to form in the Atlantic and forecasters said it had maximum sustained winds of 20 mph and was 1,155 miles east of the Windward islands.  If becomes a tropical storm, it will be named Gordon.

Channel 4 meteorologist Richard Nunn said the forecast models show the system tracking west into the Caribbean, similar to the path Ernesto was on one week earlier. 

And a low pressure system that is the remnants of Tropical Storm Florence was not likely to regain storm strength, but could bring showers along the southeast U.S. coast by Sunday.

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