The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, which officially — and may actually — begin next week, is likely to be a near- or above-normal one, forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Thursday.

As NOAA forecasters issued their seasonal prediction Thursday they were watching the possibility of a subtropical or tropical depression building in the northwestern Caribbean by early next week.

NOAA said there is a 70% likelihood of 10-16 named storms forming in the Atlantic Basin during the June 1-Nov. 30 hurricane season, with five to nine becoming hurricanes, including one to four major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher). An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

“The possibility of a weak El Nino developing, along with near-average sea surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, are two of the factors driving this outlook,” NOAA said. “These factors are set upon a backdrop of atmospheric and oceanic conditions that are conducive to hurricane development and have been producing stronger Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1995.”

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a 75% chance that the Atlantic hurricane season will be near- or above-normal, a 40% chance of a near-normal season, and a 25% chance of a below-normal season.

Meanwhile, A broad surface low drifting slowly over the Yucatan Peninsula Thursday had a 70% chance of becoming a tropical cyclone over the Memorial Day weekend, according to NOAA’s National Hurricane Center (NHC).

“Although showers and thunderstorms, along with strong gusty winds, remain primarily over the adjacent waters of the northwestern Caribbean Sea, environmental conditions are forecast to become more conducive for development through early next week, and a subtropical or tropical depression is likely to form by late Saturday over the southeastern Gulf of Mexico…Locally heavy rainfall is forecast across western Cuba and over much of Florida and the northern Gulf Coast into early next week,” NHC said.

Scientists at Colorado State University (CSU) have said they expect slightly-above-average tropical storm activity this year. The CSU team expects 14 named storms to form in the Atlantic Basin during the June 1-Nov. 30 hurricane season, with seven becoming hurricanes, including three major hurricanes. There is a 52% probability of at least one major hurricane tracking into the Caribbean and a 38% probability of a major hurricane making landfall on the Gulf Coast, the forecasters said.

Both forecasts are in line with one issued recently by AccuWeather’s Global Weather Center, which predicted 12-15 named storms forming in the Atlantic Basin this year, with six to eight becoming hurricanes, including three to five major hurricanes. Tropical activity in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) could begin early in the season, thanks to warm water already in place there, AccuWeather said.

The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season produced 17 tropical storms, about the historical average.

Organizations representing the natural gas and oil industry unveiled steps Tuesday that their members are taking to prepare their operations and shared lessons learned in recent years.