Hurricane season may seem to be off to a lazy start but federal forecasters say that’s likely to change.
The agency that issues long-range weather forecasts on Thursday upgraded the prospects for the coming months from average to above average.
By the numbers, that could mean anywhere from 10 to 17 named storms, five to nine hurricanes and two to four major hurricanes. That includes the two named storms this year so far, Tropical Storm Andrea and Hurricane Barry, which hit Louisiana last month.
The upgraded chance of an above-average season (from a 30% chance in May to 45% in August) is largely due to the dissipation of El Niño, a warm weather cycle that usually makes it harder for storms to form, said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal forecaster for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“We expect El Niño impacts to progressively fade as we go through the season,” said Bell in a media call.
NOAA does not offer predictions on storm landfall, like where hurricanes or tropical storms may hit or how strong they’ll be when they do. That’s only predictable within the few days before a storm does hit, Bell said.
August through October is traditionally the most active time in the six-month annual hurricane season.
“Historically, this is when about 95% of all hurricanes and named storms form,” he said.
Bell said that ocean surface temperatures in the Atlantic are running about half a degree above normal. Hotter water temperatures fuel storms to become stronger, but Bell said ocean temperatures don’t have much impact on a seasonal forecast.
“That’s not really a factor as far as a season outlook,” he said.
Bell said long-term climate patterns, like global warming, also are dwarfed in a short-term seasonal outlook by other atmospheric factors.
Earlier this week, Colorado State University released its mid-season forecast as well, which called for a near-normal 2019 Atlantic hurricane season. Researchers predict 14 total named storms, seven total hurricanes and two total major hurricanes.
Both forecasts include warnings from researchers that this is the right time to be prepared for a storm, as peak season heats up.
“Everyone should know their risk, have a plan and be prepared,” Bell said.
© 2019 Miami Herald, Alex Harris. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.