ACROSS FLORIDA — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced Thursday that its Climate Prediction Center is predicting nine to 15 named storms and two to four major hurricanes this year.
The national weather prognosticators say there’s a 40 percent chance of a “near-normal” Atlantic hurricane season, but there is also a 30 percent chance of an “above-normal” hurricane season.
An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms of which six become hurricanes, three of which will become major hurricanes.
NOAA said the center is 70 percent sure of this prediction.
Named storms have winds of 39 mph or higher. A named storm becomes a hurricane when winds reach 74 mph or higher. Major hurricanes (category 3, 4 and 5) are those with winds of 111 mph or higher.
The hurricane season officially extends from June 1 to Nov. 30. The first tropical storm of the season will be named Barry. (See the graphic below for a complete list of storm names).
The prediction center’s outlook reflects competing climate factors. The ongoing El Nino is expected to persist and suppress the intensity of the hurricane season. Countering El Nino is the expected combination of warmer-than-average sea-surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea and an enhanced west African monsoon, both of which favor increased hurricane activity.
NOAA said upgrades to weather monitoring equipment and access to more sophisticated satellite data is being used during the 2019 season to more accurately predict storms and warn the public of threats.
NOAA will employ a fleet of Earth-observing satellites that includes three next-generation satellites being used for the first time during the 2019 hurricane season. Data from these satellites feed the hurricane forecast models used by forecasters to help users make critical decisions days in advance.
NOAA’s National Weather Service will upgrade its Global Forecast System (GFS) flagship weather model early in the 2019 hurricane season. This marks the first major upgrade to the model in almost 40 years. Officials said it will improve tropical cyclone track and intensity forecasts.
“New satellite data and other upgrades to products and services from NOAA enable a more Weather-Ready Nation by providing the public and decision makers with the information needed to take action before, during and after a hurricane,” said Neil Jacobs, acting NOAA administrator.
NOAA’s National Hurricane Center and National Weather Service office in San Juan will expand the coastal storm surge watches and warnings in 2019 to include Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. In addition, the National Hurricane Center will display excessive rainfall outlooks on its website, providing greater visibility of one of the most dangerous inland threats from hurricanes.
NOAA’s Hurricane Hunter aircraft will be able to collect higher-resolution data this year due to upgraded onboard radar systems. These enhanced observations will be transmitted in near-real time to hurricane specialists at the National Hurricane Center, the Central Pacific Hurricane Center and forecasters at the National Weather Service offices.
But all these predictions are useless if the public isn’t prepared, said Daniel Kaniewski, Federal Emergency Management Agency deputy administrator for resilience.
“Preparing ahead of a disaster is the responsibility of all levels of government, the private sector and the public,” said Kaniewski. “It only takes one event to devastate a community so now is the time to prepare. Do you have cash on hand? Do you have adequate insurance, including flood insurance? Does your family have communication and evacuation plans? Stay tuned to your local news and download the FEMA app to get alerts, and make sure you heed any warnings issued by local officials.”
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center will update the 2019 Atlantic seasonal outlook in August, just prior to the historical peak of the season.