(Reuters) - The upcoming Atlantic Ocean hurricane season could include at least three severe tempests, but will likely involve fewer storms than usual overall, private forecaster AccuWeather predicted on Wednesday.
Meteorologists with AccuWeather are crediting a weather phenomenon in the Pacific Ocean - known as El Niño - with creating conditions that will result in a fewer number of hurricanes than usual in the Atlantic.
El Niño, characterized by warmer-than-normal temperatures in the Pacific, can bring a rainy year for California, but cause other areas to experience drought.
Yet the strong westerly winds that the phenomenon creates in the tropical areas of the Atlantic Ocean can slow the development of hurricanes, AccuWeather said in a report released early on Wednesday.
"We now believe El Niño will come on board sometime during the summer and will continue all the way through the rest of the hurricane season,” AccuWeather Meteorologist Dan Kottlowski said in the report.
The hurricane season, which begins on June 1 and continues through Nov. 30, will likely produce about ten storms large enough to be given names by meteorologists, the weather service said, fewer than the 15 named storms that swept through the Atlantic last season, threatening the U.S. East Coast as well as coastal regions and islands further south.
Of the ten storms, about half could develop into hurricanes - three of them large enough to be considered major hurricanes, AccuWeather said.
At least one could be what meteorologists call a high-impact storm, similar to last year's Hurricane Matthew, which the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said was directly responsible for 585 deaths.
Last year's hurricane season was the deadliest in over ten years for the Atlantic basin, AccuWeather added.
During 2016, hurricanes were directly responsible for a total of 687 deaths, NOAA said.
Reporting by Sharon Bernstein in Sacramento, California; editing by G Crosse