NOAA expects between two and three "major hurricanes" to develop in the Atlantic Ocean over the coming months, which is more than they predicted in May, according to an updated hurricane outlook.
"Major hurricanes" are considered Category 3, 4, or 5, with winds of at least 111 MPH. The organization says it doesn't yet know if or when the expected hurricanes will make landfall.
"We have no control over things like when and where the storm will strike," Laura Furgione, acting director of the National Weather Service, told reporters on a conference call.
The Atlantic Ocean has suffered from an abnormally high amount of hurricanes over the last several years, and this year could continue that trend, according to the outlook. There's about a 35 percent chance of an "above normal" hurricane season, and just a 15 percent chance of a "below normal" season. The organization expects between 12 and 17 named storms in 2012. So far, there have been six.
Surprisingly, two of the storms occurred in May, before the "official start" of hurricane season on June 1. That "strong early season" has led the agency to revise its earlier prediction of just 9-15 named storms, according to Gerry Bell, lead hurricane forecaster at NOAA.
Hurricane Ernesto, which hit Mexico's Yucatan Peninsula Wednesday, is the strongest storm so far this year.
Furgione reminded reporters that the United States hasn't had a Category 5 hurricane make landfall since 1992, when Hurricane Andrew devastated southern Florida. When Hurricane Katrina made landfall in 2005, it had weakened to a Category 4.
Jason Koebler is a science and technology reporter for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow him on Twitter or reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org