If you thought, because it’s been sort of quiet in the Gulf of Mexico, that we could be lucky enough to get through this hurricane season without a major hurricane, think again. With four storms (Andrea, Barry, Chantal, and Dorian) behind us, we’re getting close to the peak of the season (mid-August-October).
NOAA’s updated outlook predicts a 70 percent chance the season will be above normal. The May outlook was for 13-20 named storms, 7-11 hurricanes and 3-6 major hurricanes. Now, it’s 13-19 named storms (winds 39 mph or higher), 6-9 hurricanes (winds 74 mph or higher), and 3-5 major hurricanes (Cat. 3, 4 or 5) with winds at least 111 mph. Don’t see much difference?
Predictions are still high because “the predicted atmospheric and oceanic conditions that are favorable for storm development have materialized,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “Also, two of the four named storms to-date formed in the deep tropical Atlantic, which historically is an indicator of an active season.”
Motivating this change is a decreased likelihood that La Niña will develop and bring reduced wind shear that further strengthens the hurricane season.
Conditions now are like those that have produced many active Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1995, and include above-average Atlantic sea surface temperatures and a stronger rainy season in West Africa, which produces wind patterns that help turn storm systems there into tropical storms and hurricanes.