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Atlantic hurricane forecast sees 'slightly below-average' season with 13 named storms in 2019

Key Points
  • After destructive Atlantic hurricanes in 2018, a "slightly below-average" season of 13 named storms is forecast this hurricane season, according to a forecast released Thursday.
  • Five storms are forecast to reach hurricane status, according to researchers at Colorado State University.
  • Two of the hurricanes are forecast to reach "major hurricane strength" of Category 3 to 5, or winds of 111 mph or greater.
  • The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season produced a total of 15 named storms, including eight hurricanes of which two were Category 3 or above.
Television reporters stand as category 4 Hurricane Michael makes land fall along the Florida panhandle, on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018 in Panama City Beach, FL.
Jabin Botsford | The Washington Post | Getty Images

After destructive Atlantic hurricanes in 2018, a "slightly below-average" season is projected for this hurricane season, according to a forecast released Thursday.

The Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, is forecast to have five storms reach hurricane status, according to a team of researchers at Colorado State University. Two of the hurricanes are forecast to reach "major hurricane strength" of Category 3 to 5, or winds of 111 mph or greater.

"From the looks of it, it will be a quiet season," said Jhordanne Jones, one of the CSU researchers.

Sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean are "slightly cooler than normal right now," according to the forecast. It said the colder surface temperatures "provide less fuel for tropical cyclone formation and intensification."

Forecasters put the probability of major hurricanes making landfall along the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida Peninsula, at 28 percent and noted that is below the average of 31 percent for the last century. It said there's a 39 percent probability of a major hurricane making landfall in the Caribbean, again slightly below average for the last century.

The Colorado researchers also said the 2019 hurricane season looks to be similar to what happened in 1969, 1987, 2002 and 2009.

"1987, 1991, 2002 and 2009 had below-average Atlantic hurricane activity, while 1969 was a very active hurricane season," said Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist in CSU's Department of Atmospheric Science and the lead author of the forecast report.

In the tropical Pacific, meantime, the forecast said that "a weak El Nino has recently developed" and it anticipates these conditions will likely persist through the peak of the hurricane season in the Atlantic region.

"El Nino tends to increase upper-level westerly winds across the Caribbean into the tropical Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes as they try to form," the forecast said.

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season was destructive for the U.S. and produced a total of 15 named storms, including eight hurricanes of which two were Category 3 or above, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Researchers at NOAA are expected to release their 2019 hurricane season forecast in late May.

The first hurricane activity in 2018 was Tropical Storm Alberto forming on May 25 and making landfall in northern Florida and traveling as far north as the Great Lakes region as a tropical depression. Also, the 2018 hurricane season was the first time since 2008 that there were four named storms active at the same time (Helene, Isaac, Joyce and Florence), according to NOAA.

Hurricane Florence caused devastating flooding to the Carolinas, with overall losses of $14 billion, according to Munich Re, a reinsurance firm. That made it the second-costliest hurricane in the U.S. last year after Hurricane Michael ($16 billion), which packed wind of 155 mph as it made landfall near Panama City, Florida, and ranks as the fourth-strongest hurricane on record to hit the U.S.