After several quiet years, weather forecasters think we might be entering a more active hurricane season.
Prior to 2016, Florida had gone a record ten years without a hurricane making landfall that is until Hurricane Hermine hit Apalachee Bay in the Panhandle.
Though the official hurricane season runs from June to November, it is not uncommon for storms to form before the start of the season, in April/May, or well beyond the end of the season right through to the following January.
In 2012 both Alberto and Beryl formed in May and in 2015 Ana also formed in May. In 2016 Alex formed in January and Bonnie in May. In 2017, Arlene formed in April and in 2018, another storm called Alberto formed in late May. 2019 seems to be no different with Andrea also forming in May.
August and September are traditionally the most active months.
Hurricane predictions for 2019
The team led by Philip J. Klotzbach from the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University normally make their first predictions in April/May time but for the 2019 hurricane season they published a very early forecast.
They anticipated a lower probability of major storm activity unlike the previous three years. This is due to their prediction of the reduced likelihood of El Niño developing and they have put forward five different scenarios with percentage probabilities. Of the five scenarios, the one with the highest percentage forecasts eight to eleven named storms, three to five hurricanes of which one to two could be major hurricanes.
Their first quantitive forecast was on April 4 with thirteen named storms, five hurricanes with two becoming major hurricanes. They are forecasting a slightly below average season with a 48% chance of a hurricane making landfall on the entire United States coastline with a 28% chance of landfall on the southeast coast and the Gulf coast including Florida.
Further forecasts are expected on June 4, July 2 and August 6.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) usually put out their first predictions towards the end of May each year with a revised forecast in August. This year in May they predicted a 70% chance of a near normal season with an estimated nine to fifteen named storms, four to eight hurricanes of which two to four could be major hurricanes.
This again puts their worst case scenario slightly ahead of Colorado State University.
AccuWeather.com announced their forecast in April and this year is predicting twelve to fourteen named storms with five to seven hurricanes of which two to four could become major hurricanes. They also predict two to four named storms could make landfall in the USA.
Tropical Storm Risk is predicting a slightly below average season with twelve named storms and five hurricanes of which two could become major.
Earth Networks who power WeatherBug are predicting ten to fourteen named storms including four to seven hurricanes of which two to three could be major.
Both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University team have often over estimated named storms and hurricanes in recent years but remember these are just predictions.
It only takes one storm to do untold damage, just remember Andrew in 1992 or Katrina and Sandy more recently. 2017 ended up being far worse than anybody predicted.
In 1992 there were only seven named storms making it a “quiet” year but the first storm of the season, the category 5 Hurricane Andrew, hit Homestead near Miami before crossing over into the Gulf and onto Louisiana. Damage was estimated at $26 billion with around 65 people killed in total.
Storm names for 2019
Each year a set of names alternating between boys and girls is chosen for all named storms. Names are often re-used but the names of particularly damaging hurricanes such as Katrina and Sandy are withdrawn and never used again.
The names for tropical storms and hurricanes in 2019 are as follows:
Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin, Fernand, Gabrielle, Humberto, Imelda, Jerry, Karen, Lorenzo, Melissa, Nestor, Olga, Pablo, Rebekah, Sebastien, Tanya, Van, Wendy
For the fifth year in a row, the first named storm of the season has occurred before the official start of the season on June 1st.
Subtropical Storm Andrea formed south of Bermuda on May 20 but by the following day it had weakened to a subtropical depression and broke up.