U.S. forecasters reveal outlook for 2019 Atlantic hurricane season

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On Thursday, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association(NOAA) released their initial thoughts for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season.

The initial forecast for the hurricane season, which officially runs from June 1 to November 30, predicts a “near-normal” season. So, what does that mean? Well, near-normal sounds a lot better than the past few years, which were both above average seasons.

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season is likely remembered most for hurricanes Florence and Michael(both Cat 4 hurricanes), which caused significant damage in the southeastern U.S. In total, the season produced 15 named storms, including eight hurricanes of which two were “major” (Category 3, 4 or 5).

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During an average hurricane season, there are about 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes. This year’s outlook forecasts a 40% of a near-normal season and 30% for both above & below normal.

And for the fifth year in a row, we’ve had a named storm in the Atlantic basin form before the official start of the season, per NOAA.

On Monday, the first named storm(Andrea) of the 2019 Atlantic season had formed hundreds of miles southwest of Bermuda only to weaken within 24 hours and was considered to no longer be considered as an organized tropical system.

This year, NOAA predicts a likely range of 9 to 15 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 4 to 8 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA provides these ranges with a 70% confidence. Keep in mind, this is an initial forecast and it will be updated by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center in August prior to the historical peak of the season.

The outlook reflects many meteorological variables, but the most prominent features are El Nino, wind shear and the temperatures of the water in the Atlantic Ocean. El Nino is known as the warm phase of sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Pacific. In this case, El Nino is expected to linger and suppress the intensity of the hurricane season in the Atlantic. Wind shear is related to wind speed and/or wind direction over a distance. For storms to thrive and strengthen, they tend to be found in areas of warm waters with little to no shear. This promotes better storm development and longevity.

NOAA says warmer-than average sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and an enhanced west African monsoon will help favor increased hurricane activity.

The official start to the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season is on June 1st.