The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released their 2019 outlook for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, which leans toward a near-normal season.
A normal season coincides with NOAA predicting 9 to 15 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which to 4 to 8 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 2 to 4 major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5; winds of 111 mph or higher).
With a 40% chance of occurrence a near normal season is most likely, but NOAA also notes a 30% of an above-normal season and a 30% chance of a below-normal season. While there are numerous factors that contribute to NOAA’s outlook, there are two factors in particular that influenced the outlook this year: sea surface temperatures and an El Niño pattern.
Warmer than average sea surface temperatures over the Atlantic favor storm development. The warm waters offer more fuel for developing storms, which would push for an above average season.
El Niño on the other hand does not favor storm development in the Atlantic. El Niño is marked by the warming of waters over the central and East Central Pacific. This would encourage storm development in the Pacific, but hinder development in the Atlantic. This is because during El Niño wind patterns shift to create more wind shear of the Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic, which can ‘tear’ developing storms down.
These two competing factors lead us to even chances of an above average and below average season, while also leaning the overall outlook to near-normal.
Te be very clear: NOAA’s outlook is for overall seasonal activity and is not a landfall forecast. You should always make the appropriate preparations for each season regardless of the official outlook.
Daniel Kaniewski, Ph.D., the FEMA deputy administrator for resilience emphasized the importance of readiness for any hurricane season:
“Preparing ahead of a disaster is the responsibility of all levels of government, the private sector, and the public. It only takes one event to devastate a community so now is the time to prepare. Do you have cash on hand? Do you have adequate insurance, including flood insurance? Does your family have communication and evacuation plans?
NOAA, the National Hurricane Center, and the National Weather Service are continuing to expand their own preparedness efforts this year. The 2019 hurricane season marks the first time NOAA’s fleet of Earth-observing satellites includes three operational next-generation satellites, NOAA’s Hurricane Hunter Aircraft will collect higher-resolution data from upgraded onboard radar systems, and the NWS is currently planning an upgrade to their Global Forecasting System. All of these upgrades are to help generate the best possible forecast to help citizens prepare for the weather.