The number of hurricanes that develop in the Atlantic basin varies from year to year. For 2019, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a near average season.
Tropical cyclones, known as hurricanes in the United States, develop around the globe at different times of the year. In this country, we are most impacted by the Atlantic hurricane season, which affects the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico. It runs from June 1 through November 30.
Overall, NOAA predicts a 70% likelihood of nine to fifteen named storms forming this season, of which four to eight could become hurricanes, including two to four major hurricanes. An average season produces twelve named storms, including six hurricanes and three that become major hurricanes.
A major hurricane is one that is rated category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
This year’s outlook, according to NOAA, reflects several competing factors. On one side, there are above average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic to fuel any storms that develop. Additionally, there is an enhanced west African monsoon in place that can initiate disturbances that turn into storms over the Atlantic. On the other hand, there is an ongoing El Niño event. El Niño conditions in the Pacific tend to cause increased wind shear in the Atlantic, which suppresses tropical development in that basin.
Last year, 2018, saw a very destructive hurricane season in the Atlantic. It produced fifteen named storms, including, Florence and Michael.
Regardless of the number of storms that actually form this year, it is important to remember that it only takes one land-falling system to make it an impactful season.