This season may be weak, but hurricane threats may be low

Written by Staff Writer

CNN Meteorologist Jennifer Gray

Despite warnings of increased activity this year due to the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO), no more than two hurricanes will emerge from the Atlantic Ocean in the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, forecasters have predicted.

That’s down from a forecast of six to 11 in the 2017 hurricane season.

The season is forecast to begin June 1 and last until November 30. It is the only time of year that tropical Atlantic storms and hurricanes are forecast to form.

The lack of activity in the past few years is due to a combination of many factors. A near-record-large area of high pressure over the central Atlantic is preventing storms from organizing and pushing toward the US mainland.

These winds are diminishing, allowing seasonal forecasts to take a more favorable stance, with a slight chance of below normal activity.

According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which issued its June outlook, the possibility of more than one hurricane making landfall in the US is also slight.

The coastal waters will have plenty of fuel to fuel these storms. El Niño is no longer present, and data released in May by several research institutes indicate that El Niño may be gone for good.

Regardless of the impact of El Niño or no El Niño, the Atlantic is historically at its most active when ocean temperatures are warm.

Last year’s season was interrupted by Hurricane Maria. Though it didn’t make landfall along the US coast, the storm devastated Puerto Rico, leaving 3.5 million without electricity, thousands without running water and hundreds of thousands with no food.

Meteorologists are hopeful that the storm’s aftermath, which will continue for several months, will at least “get rid of a lot of the energy,” said Jeff Masters, meteorology director at Weather Underground.

And while NOAA’s forecast calls for two hurricanes to emerge, the New York Daily News reports that forecasters’ predictions include Hurricane Florence, an advanced cone for which is now being modeled by NOAA.

“The cone may expand further north this year due to a higher level of confidence in the seasonal pattern and a likelihood that tropical systems will be grouped,” according to the agency.

Like Florence, the potential for hurricanes to develop in the Pacific makes the forecasters’ projections difficult to project.

While the Pacific is expected to be a wet one, both there and in the Atlantic, the latter offers hope that El Niño may have not gone as far as most scientists predicted.

“The idea that we could go from the eighth best season to one of the worst is extreme, and it’s possible,” Masters said.

“You can kind of see that happening, with a very narrow band of the northern tropical Atlantic, which in turn would tend to provide less to our risk in the western Gulf. And we have seen that before.”

In 1997-98, only one hurricane made landfall in the United States as a major storm, which has accounted for just one of the 10 worst storms to strike the nation.

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