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Is early tropical Atlantic activity a sign of things to come for 2016 hurricane season?

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Following the earliest "C" storm since reliable hurricane records have been kept in the 1950s, the natural question to ask is: Does the flurry of early-season tropical activity indicate an absolute sign of a busy summer in the Atlantic?

Since when names were first assigned to tropical systems, there have been three "C" storms during June. Colin is the earliest to form, beating out Hurricane Chris, which formed on June 18, 2012, and Tropical Storm Candy, which formed on June 23, 1968.

The earliest account of the third tropical system of a season was on June 12, 1887. However, there may have been multiple systems missed prior to the use of weather satellites.

Records have shown that significant activity during May, June and July often yield near- to above-average numbers of tropical systems for the season. However, despite higher numbers prior to the main part of the season, the summer may not stay busy.

The major player in the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season is likely to be La Niña.

Cooler-than-average waters are predicted to develop in the tropical Pacific (La Niña). These cool waters affect weather systems around the globe over time.

"Provided La Niña begins to develop late in the summer and strengthens during the autumn, we should see a corresponding uptick in the number of tropical systems in the Atlantic basin," according to AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski. "However, it is not like flipping a switch and all of a sudden the Atlantic is buzzing with hurricanes."

The impact of La Niña may not be felt until the autumn.

During the first part of the summer, the warmest waters in the Atlantic basin are usually found from the western part of the Caribbean to the Gulf of Mexico and along the southeastern coast of the United States.

While the general area surrounding the northwestern part of the Caribbean will remain an area to watch, much of the balance of June, July and perhaps early August should be relatively quiet in terms of tropical activity.

"While warm waters remain a concern, features that helped to breed Bonnie and Colin should retreat northward through midsummer," Kottlowski said.

AccuWeather is projecting a slightly above-average season in terms of tropical storms and hurricanes, and the most active season for the Atlantic basin in the past three years.

The defining part of the 2016 Atlantic hurricane season is likely to be the behavior of tropical systems moving westward off the coast of Africa. These storms are known as Cape Verde systems, for the islands located just off the west coast of Africa.

The prime time for development of the Cape Verde systems is from mid-August into early October.

Whether or not the season finishes near average or well above average will depend on the usual deterrents to these tropical systems and others that form throughout the basin. The deterrents being wind shear, dry air and pockets of cool water.

The changing of the speed and direction of winds at different layers of the atmosphere is wind shear. When this difference is great, it can interfere with tropical storm formation and intensity.

Tropical systems need a moist atmosphere to form and to thrive, as well as warm water, typically around 80 F (27 C) or higher.

"We are seeing warm waters off the coast of Africa this season, compared to recent years," Kottlowski said.

If the warm waters hold up, the tropical systems that move westward from Africa are likely to have a greater chance of surviving the trip across the Atlantic.

"A system such as Erika from 2015 is more likely to continue to strengthen moving westward this year, given the expected conditions," Kottlowski said.

Last year, Erika encountered cooler waters and wind shear upon approaching the Caribbean and dissipated.

Kottlowski anticipates that two more systems may make landfall in the U.S. into the autumn, following Bonnie and Colin.