Weather Services International (WSI) is sticking to its forecast of a mild 2014 Atlantic hurricane season, saying Tuesday that an El Nino event and cooler waters in the Atlantic Ocean will suppress tropical storm activity.

The WSI forecasters said they expect 11 named storms, including five hurricanes, two of them major (Category 3 or higher) to form in the Atlantic this year, as they had in their previous forecast (see Daily GPI, May 19). That would be a relatively quiet tropical season, well below both the 1950-2013 normals of 12/7/3 and the more recent “active period” (1995-2013) normals of 15/8/4, WSI said.

WSI and other forecasters agree that this year’s Atlantic hurricane season is likely to be a mild one (see Daily GPI, June 3). The hurricane season, which officially began June 1 and ends Nov. 30, has yet to produce any tropical storms.

“It’s ‘steady as she goes’ with regards to expectations for the 2014 tropical season,” said WSI Chief Meteorologist Todd Crawford. “We are already off to a relatively slow start, as it is quite likely that this year will be the first since 2009 to go into July without yet having a named storm. Tropical Atlantic surface temperatures also remain relatively cool relative to recent years. Finally, the first El Nino event in five years is progressing on schedule.

“The various dynamical and statistical models that we use remain in unusual agreement, predicting between 9-12 named storms, between 4-7 hurricanes, and between 2-3 major hurricanes this year. The lack of any significant changes during the last month dictate that we leave our forecast of 11 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 major hurricanes as is.”

The Energy Information Administration (EIA) recently said that a relatively mild hurricane season this year would result in an estimated 30 Bcf of natural gas production in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) shut in at some point (see Daily GPI, June 11).

“EIA’s simulation results indicate a 69% probability of offshore natural gas production experiencing outages during the 2014 hurricane season that are equal to or larger than the 6.7 Bcf of production shut in last season,” EIA said. “Despite the potential for significant outages if a strong hurricane were to pass through the GOM producing region, the overall effect on U.S. supply would not be as severe as in past years because the share of total U.S. natural gas production originating in the GOM has declined sharply. In 1997, 26% of the nation’s natural gas was produced in the federal Gulf of Mexico; by 2013, that share had fallen to 5%.”

There were 14 named storms last year, but only two of them became hurricanes, and none reached major hurricane status. Late in the hurricane season, Tropical Storm Karen forced natural gas and oil operations to be shut-in and dozens of platforms to be evacuated, but the storm weakened before doing any major damage (see Daily GPI, Oct. 7, 2013).