Slightly below-average Atlantic hurricane season predicted
Researchers with Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project predict that this year’s hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30, will be slightly below-average with about 13 named storms and five hurricanes — two of which will be major, defined as category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, with winds of 111 to 129 mph. The slightly below-average forecast is likely to come as a relief after 2018’s above-average hurricane season. Last year, Hurricane Florence made landfall in North Carolina as a category 1 hurricane and caused extensive flooding across the region, and Hurricane Michael made landfall in the Florida Panhandle as a powerful category 4 hurricane.
The lower forecast is primarily due to the relatively high likelihood of a weak El Niño. The weather phenomenon — named for the warming of waters in the Central and Eastern Pacific Ocean — can have long-reaching consequences for weather and climate around the globe, especially for hurricane formation in the Pacific and Atlantic. In addition, tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently slightly below their long-term average values, which researchers said will slow hurricane activity.
Related: 2019 Atlantic hurricane season names
Below are the names of tropical storms or hurricanes that may form in the Atlantic Ocean in 2019. Provided by the National Hurricane Center and World Meteorological Organization, names are alphabetical, and alternate between male and female. Needing the entire list in a season is rare.
Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin, Fernand, Gabrielle, Humberto, Imelda, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Nestor, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastien, Tanya, Van, Wendy.
When hurricanes are deemed particularly destructive or significant, their names are retired from the list of usable storm names — both hurricanes Florence and Michael from last year were removed.
The university’s hurricane research team will also issue updated forecasts on the Atlantic hurricane season on June 4, July 2 and August 6. This year’s forecast is based on statistical models from 40 years of data and conditions. The forecasts do not specifically predict where the storms might strike, and the probability of landfall for any single location is low. However, researchers cautioned that coastal residents should be careful. “As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them,” the researchers wrote in the report. “They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.”
Hurricanes are getting stronger rapidly
An average hurricane season is based on the 30-year average from 1981 to 2010. By that definition, an average season includes 12 named storms and six hurricanes, with three of those being major hurricanes — storms that qualify as category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Researchers at the National Center for Atmospheric Research are warning that future tropical storms and hurricanes will only get bigger, stronger and drop significantly more rain after analyzing data from NOAA’s National Hurricane Center and the U.S. Navy’s Joint Typhoon Warning Center on the impact of the 22 most recent hurricanes, with a particular interest in how quickly the hurricanes intensified or grew in strength. A study led by Pacific Northwest National Laboratory supports these findings, reporting that Atlantic storms are intensifying quicker than they did 30 years ago.
It takes just one storm
Hurricane season — which runs from June 1 through November 30 — is always a stressful time for the Caribbean, the Gulf coast and the Southeast. The U.S. might not see the same levels of destruction this year, but residents of the coastal U.S. should prepare for a hurricane strike or flooding, no matter the forecast. It only takes one storm to claim lives and property. The International Code Council offers education on preparedness through its Hurricane Safety page, filled with disaster safety and mitigation information for code officials and the public.
Safety starts with smart building design — construction and buildings built to updated, modern codes are best able to withstand the impacts of severe wind and rain. The materials used in construction, their method of installation, and additional protections such as hurricane shutters and safer glass can be the difference between life and death.