NOAA predicts “near normal” Atlantic hurricane season

NOAA satellite image of Hurricane Florence approaching the East Coast in September 2018.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released its predictions for the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season Thursday — and forecasters say it’s looking “near-normal.”

Hurricane season officially extends from June 1 to Nov. 30. For the last five years, named storms have popped up in the Atlantic basin prior to the true start of the season, with subtropical storm Andrea briefly spinning out in the ocean over the past week.

For 2019, NOAA predicts a likely range of nine to 15 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which four to eight could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher). Forecasters say this could include two to four major hurricane (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher).

NOAA Hurricane Outlook graphic

NOAA provides these ranges with a 70 percent confidence, the National Hurricane Center said in a news release.

An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

Last year, hurricanes Florence and Michael caused severe damage and flooding along the eastern seaboard, leading to both names being retired from the list of hurricane names.

“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 the news release. “Throughout hurricane season, dedicated NOAA staff will remain on alert for any danger to American lives and communities.”

This outlook reflects competing climate factors. The ongoing El Nino is expected to persist and suppress the intensity of the hurricane season. Countering El Nino is the expected combination of warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and an enhanced west African monsoon, both of which 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.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center will update the 2019 Atlantic seasonal outlook in August just prior to the historical peak of the season.

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Kari Pugh is digital director for OBXToday.com, Beach 104, 99.1 The Sound, 94.5 WCMS and News Talk 92.3 WZPR. Reach her at kpugh@jammediallc.com