I have been asked the same question quite frequently lately: What does it mean that we have already had 2 tropical storms before the official start to hurricane season? It means that the season came slightly early this year nothing else.
Conditions in the atmosphere and the ocean favor a near-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin this season but NOAA's outlook predicts a less active season compared to recent years.
There's a 70 percent chance of nine to 15 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which four to eight will strengthen to a hurricane (winds of 74 mph or higher) and of those one to three will become major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or higher, ranking Category 3, 4 or 5). An average season produces 12 named storms with six hurricanes, including three major hurricanes based on the period 1981-2010.
The NOAA report cited near-normal Atlantic sea-surface temperatures and "a continuation of the overall conditions associated with the Atlantic high-activity era that began in 1995" as factors favoring tropical cyclone development.
With that said, cooler water temperatures in the eastern Atlantic Ocean and strong wind shear are factors that may limit storm development. Another potential factor would be El Niño, the warming of the East Pacific Ocean, if it develops by late summer to early fall. If that happens, conditions could be less conducive for hurricane formation and intensification during the peak months (August-October) of the season, which could shift the activity toward the lower end of the predicted range.
We will just have to wait and see what the season brings but make sure you stay weather-ready!