Fewer storms forecast, but it only takes one

Fewer storms forecast, but it only takes one
Hurricane Michael ravaged Mexico Beach, Fla., last year in the Panhandle. - File Photo

FORT COLLINS – The Colorado State University hurricane research team has issued its first prediction for the 2019 tropical storm season and it is good news, for now

The forecast, authored by Dr. Phillip Klotzbach, predicts a total of 13 named storms turning into five hurricanes and two major (Category 3 or more) hurricanes.

Last season, the region experienced 15 named storms, eight hurricanes and two major hurricanes. One of those major storms, Michael, was one of the most powerful hurricanes ever to hit the United States. It leveled buildings in Mexico Beach, Fla., and throughout the Florida Panhandle, with winds just shy of Category 5 strength.

On average, the Atlantic and Caribbean region gets 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

According to Klotzbach’s report, “During the past several months, El Niño conditions have developed in the Pacific Ocean, meaning that sea surface temperatures in the eastern tropics are warmer than normal. In general, El Niño conditions tend to suppress Atlantic hurricane formation, as a result of increases in upper-level winds that tear apart developing Atlantic hurricanes.

“Predicting changes in El Niño is extremely difficult during the spring season, so although we know there’s an El Niño now, we don’t know whether it will continue through the rest of the year,” the report says. “Very small changes in wind conditions can cause big changes in the ocean circulation at this time of year. Consequently, the models that forecast El Niño tend to have less skill, which is the measure of the accuracy of the prediction versus what really happens. Nevertheless, these models do have modest ability to predict conditions for the next several months.”

The CSU team will release updates to their predictions on June 4, July 2 and Aug. 6.

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