NOAA predicts near-normal 2019 Atlantic hurricane season

NOAA predicts near-normal 2019 Atlantic hurricane season
Hurricane Michael made landfall near Mexico Beach, Florida on Oct. 10, 2018. With winds as high as 160 mph, the Category 5 storm slammed coastal towns in the area, leveling buildings and structures, flooding streets and leaving a trail of destruction. (NOAA)

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Climate Prediction Center says the Atlantic basin should experience a near-normal hurricane season this year.

The forecast, announced Thursday morning, predicts a 40% chance of a near-normal season, which means a likely range of 9 to 15 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher). Of those 9 to 15 storms, 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 says it is 70% confident in these ranges.

A graphic showing hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms. (NOAA)

“With the 2019 hurricane season upon us, NOAA is leveraging cutting-edge tools to help secure Americans against the threat posed by hurricanes and tropical cyclones across both the Atlantic and Pacific,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in a statement. “Throughout hurricane season, dedicated NOAA staff will remain on alert for any danger to American lives and communities.”

NOAA says determining this outlook was challenging due to competing climate factors. The ongoing El Nino is expected to persist and suppress the intensity of the hurricane season, but warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and an enhanced west African monsoon, both favor increased hurricane activity.

“New satellite data and other upgrades to products and services from NOAA enable a more weather-ready nation by providing the public and decision-makers with the information needed to take action before, during and after a hurricane,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator.

A graphic showing 2019 Atlantic tropical cyclone names selected by the World Meteorological Organization. (NOAA)

The hurricane season, which officially begins June 1 and extends to Nov. 30, is already showing activity. The National Hurricane Center started issuing advisories Tuesday on subtropical storm Andrea, which has since dissipated.

Forecasters will have more tools this season. NOAA’s fleet of Earth-observing satellites will, for the first time, include three operational next-generation satellites. Unique and valuable data from these satellites feed the hurricane forecast models used by forecasters to help make critical decisions days in advance.

The National Weather Service is also making a planned upgrade to its Global Forecast System (GFS) flagship weather model – often called the American model – early in the 2019 hurricane season. Scientists say the upgrade will improve tropical cyclone track and intensity forecasts.

“NOAA is driving towards a community-based development program for future weather and climate modeling to deliver the very best forecasts, by leveraging new investments in research and working with the weather enterprise,” Jacobs said.

The National Hurricane Center will also display excessive rainfall outlooks on its website this season, providing greater visibility to one of the most dangerous inland threats from hurricanes, and its Hurricane Hunter aircraft will collect higher-resolution data from upgraded onboard radar systems. These enhanced observations will be transmitted in near-real time to hurricane specialists at the National Hurricane Center, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center and forecasters at NWS forecast offices.

For more information about hurricanes and how to prepare you and your family to stay safe from an approaching storm, visit the National Hurricane Center at nhc.noaa.gov.

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