El Niño may lessen number of Atlantic hurricanes this season
The 2019 hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30. Here are the storm names for the upcoming season. Maureen Kenyon, email@example.com
WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – Will El Niño's wind shear help dampen the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, decreasing the odds of another catastrophic landfall like Florence and Michael last year?
Phil Klotzbach, a Colorado State University meteorologist who specializes in hurricane forecasting, is watching closely.
"El Niño is the big, big question. There's a westerly wind event right now in the tropical Pacific. And to me, a lot hinges on how the ocean responds to that event," Klotzbach said Wednesday, minutes after delivering a presentation during the Governor's Hurricane Conference.
In early April, the Tropical Meteorology Project at CSU's Department of Atmospheric Sciences predicted 13 named storms and five hurricanes, two of which would strengthen into major hurricanes. That's a slightly less active season than typically seen from 1981-2010.
The forecasters will update those numbers June 4, three days after the Atlantic hurricane season kicks off.
“Hurricanes don’t like shear. So when you have lots of shear, it’s detrimental to hurricanes – (and) good for those in their path," Klotzbach told the audience at the Palm Beach County Convention Center.
"In an El Niño event, you get very strong upper-level westerly winds. You get a whole lot more shear. Hurricanes tend to be much weaker," Klotzbach said.
In its April forecast, the CSU researchers pegged these odds of at least one Category 3, 4 or 5 making landfall this upcoming season in these locations:
- Entire U.S. coastline: 48%.
- U.S. East Coast, including the Florida peninsula: 28%.
- Gulf Coast, from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville, Texas: 28%.
- Caribbean: 39%.
NOAA will announce its initial outlook for the 2019 Atlantic hurricane season during a May 23 news conference in Washington, D.C.
Klotzbach cautioned that the number of hurricanes swirling to life in any given year is not necessarily an indicator of potential residential and commercial property damages.
“You can have a very active season like 2010, where there were 12 hurricanes in the Atlantic. It was gangbusters. Nobody remembers 2010 except for a few of us hurricane geeks – because nothing hit the U.S.," Klotzbach said.
"Alternatively, you can have a year like 1992, one of (my mentor) Bill Gray’s best forecasts. He predicted one major hurricane in 1992," he said.
"There was only one major hurricane. It happened to be Hurricane Andrew, which obviously was devastating to southern Miami-Dade County."
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