North Atlantic hurricane season begins

The 2019 North Atlantic hurricane season officially gets underway tomorrow, and runs for six months through to 30th November. As the season begins, catastrophe modeller and meteorologist at RMS, James Cosgrove says most analysts anticipate near-average activity in the Atlantic hurricane region, which comprises the North Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is forecasting 9 to 15 named storms, 4 to 8 hurricanes, and 2 to 4 major hurricanes; these ranges are close to historical annual averages of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. Outlooks from other forecast groups and meteorological agencies are broadly in line with the guidance issued by NOAA.

According to RMS, forecasts of near-average activity result from the expected competing influence of the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) climate phenomenon and sea surface temperatures in the equatorial Atlantic during the peak months of the hurricane season (August through October).

“ENSO is forecast to remain in a weak El Niño phase during this summer, which typically suppresses hurricane activity in the Atlantic. Conversely, ocean temperatures in the tropical Atlantic are expected to be above average through the summer, which historically enhances hurricane activity. Given the uncertainty in forecasting these factors for several months into the future, and because these factors are competing, there is considerable uncertainty as to how they will eventually go on to influence hurricane activity,” Cosgrove explained.

“These forecasts only provide a guide to the anticipated level of activity across the Atlantic; they do not provide an indication of the expected number of storms to threaten land or make landfall. Although long-term statistics indicate that the probability of a hurricane making landfall in the US increases during more active seasons, there are notable exceptions. 2010 was a particularly active year in the Atlantic basin but only one tropical storm made landfall in the United States. Conversely, Hurricane Andrew, one of the most intense and costliest hurricanes in US history, was one of only seven storms to develop during the quiet 1992 season. It only takes one intense landfalling storm to make the season a memorable one.”

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