COLORADO, United States, Tuesday April 16, 2019 – Activity in the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season is forecast to be a bit less active than usual, with slightly below-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall in the Caribbean.
That’s according to the outlook issued by the respected team at the Colorado State University (CSU), led by Dr Phil Klotzbach, for the June 1 to November 30 period.
A normal season sees about 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. The forecast for 2019 is close to that. It is predicted there will be 13 named tropical systems, with about 5 of those becoming hurricanes – a decrease from the 8 last year and half the number in the 2017 season. Of those hurricanes, 2 are forecast to reach major hurricane status with winds at Category 3 strength or higher.
There is a 39 per cent probability – below the average of 42 per cent for the last century – of at least one major hurricane (Category 3, 4 or 5) tracking into the Caribbean.
However, the CSU did note that early season forecasts such as the one this month – the earliest seasonal forecast it issues – are less accurate than those produced closer to the season.
As it stands, the university says a currently weak El Niño will persist, keeping average sea surface temperatures slightly below normal and the North Atlantic unusually cooler than usual. With cooler waters in place, tropical systems – which need warmer water to gain strength – will have trouble organizing and gaining strength.
However, El Niño is only one of several influences on the atmospheric circulation. Water temperatures in the Atlantic have a much more direct role in tropical cyclone development on the Atlantic side.
The current water temperatures across the North Atlantic basin show cooler-than-average water temperatures in the far North Atlantic and in the eastern tropical Atlantic between the Lesser Antilles and Africa. Warmer-than-average water is widespread in the Gulf of Mexico, off the southeast coast of the United States and in the central Atlantic Ocean.
While emphasizing large uncertainty in what water temperatures will be in the North Atlantic during the peak of hurricane season, Dr Klotzbach noted the early spring configuration of water temperature anomalies lined up with previous below-average hurricane seasons.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is expected to release its hurricane outlook later this month.