One to 4 major Atlantic hurricanes possible this year, NOAA says

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This year's Atlantic hurricane season could generate more activity than in recent years and possibly bring one to four major hurricanes, the federal government said.

The season, which begins Wednesday and ends November 30, "will most likely be near-normal," but this year's predictions have higher levels of uncertainty than usual.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Climate Prediction Center issued a report on the upcoming hurricane season on Friday.

"This is a more challenging hurricane season outlook than most because it's difficult to determine whether there will be reinforcing or competing climate influences on tropical storm development." the center's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster Dr. Gerry Bell said.

"A near-normal prediction for this season suggests we could see more hurricane activity than we've seen in the last three years, which were below normal."

The center predicts a 45% chance of a near-normal season. There is a 30% chance of an above-normal season and a 25% chance of a below-normal season.

It predicts a 70% likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms, packing winds of 39 mph. Of those, four to eight could become hurricanes, with winds of 74 mph or higher. One to four of those hurricanes could be major, with winds of 111 mph or higher.

Hurricane Alex, a storm that formed over the far eastern Atlantic in January, is included in the center's outlook.