2016 East Pacific hurricane forecast: Developing La Nina to yield near-normal number of storms

Following one of the most active hurricane seasons on record in the East Pacific in 2015, fewer storms are predicted for the 2016 season.

The 2015 season featured 13 hurricanes and a record-setting nine major hurricanes within the basin. Patricia became the strongest hurricane on record in the Western Hemisphere with winds of 200 mph and a low central pressure of 879 millibars.

A transition from an El Niño to a La Niña pattern is forecast during the summer months. El Niño is characterized by warmer-than-normal ocean water in the Pacific Ocean near the equator, while La Niña is characterized by cooler-than-normal water in the same region. Both weather patterns can have significant impacts on weather around the world.

The transition to La Niña means that ocean waters will trend cooler across the main development region as the season progresses, an inhibiting factor for tropical development and strengthening.

The cooling trend in the Pacific will be most notable as the season progresses. The cooling is expected to have the biggest impacts during August, September and October, which is historically the most active part of the East Pacific hurricane season.

Another inhibiting factor for tropical development will be an increased amount of wind shear across the basin.

Wind shear is the changing of wind direction and speed at various levels of the atmosphere. In order for tropical systems to form, strengthen or maintain strength, wind shear must be low.

With all potential factors in mind, 14 tropical storms and seven hurricanes are expected in the Eastern Pacific this season, one less than normal for both categories.

While the number of named tropical cyclones is expected to be slightly below normal, residents and visitors to the region should not let their guard down as three major hurricanes are expected this year.

Two named storm landfalls are forecast in Mexico with the greatest threat along the west coast of Mexico and over southern Baja California. In comparison, there were four landfalling storms in 2015.

"Just because a lower number of landfalls are expected in Mexico this season does not diminish the potential for there to be significant impacts from any storm that does make landfall," said Accuweather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski.

"There have been cases where East Pacific hurricanes that fail to make landfall still produce significant rainfall and flooding in Mexico as well as the southwest United States," Kottlowski added.