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AccuWeather's 2019 Atlantic hurricane season forecast

April 03, 2019; 7:15 AM

2019 Atlantic hurricane season heat map

The tropical track density map above was created by analyzing analog years, which are past years that have weather patterns similar to current and projected weather patterns. Analog years are often used to predict future trends and impacts during a hurricane season. They can be based solely on the El Niño-Southern Oscillation or on a combination of weather patterns and teleconnections, which are weather patterns occurring over another part of the globe that can strongly influence current or future weather in a particular area of concern.

After an active Atlantic hurricane season in 2018, AccuWeather forecasters are predicting 2019 to result in a near- to slightly above-normal season with 12 to 14 storms.

Of those storms, five to seven are forecast to become hurricanes and two to four are forecast to become major hurricanes.

"This year, we think that there will be a few less tropical storms and lower numbers in hurricanes, but again, the old saying is ‘it only takes one'," AccuWeather Atlantic Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said.

After the U.S. took a battering in 2018, thanks largely to Michael and Florence, meteorologists are once again forecasting impacts for the United States.

According to Kottlowski, two to four are likely.

To help predict the upcoming season, forecasters have drawn comparisons to previous years with comparable weather conditions - also known as analog years.

In this case, 1969 bears strong similarity to our current pattern.

During that season, Hurricane Camille slammed into the Gulf coastline, making landfall in Waveland, Mississippi, and causing widespread damage to several coastal areas, including Mobile, Alabama. It became one of only three Category 5 hurricanes on record to impact the U.S.

But that doesn't mean we'll experience something similar this year, Kottlowski said.

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"We caution that just because that hurricane went into Mobile, Alabama, that doesn't mean you're going to get hit by a Category 5 hurricane," he said.

"But it shows you that this year, at least the climate pattern has the capability to produce several very strong storms and so people should not let their guard down."

Other years with similar conditions have resulted in impacts up and down the coast, including all the way from Brownsville, Texas, to the Florida panhandle and up the mid-Atlantic coast.

This image shows the average track density for tropical systems in the Atlantic between 1988 and 2018. 

"This year, just about all coastal areas look like they have equal chances," Kottlowski said.

Early on in the season, however, AccuWeather meteorologists will be monitoring the potential for development off the Southeast coast, the Gulf of Mexico and in the Caribbean.

"Those are the areas that we will monitor very closely, not only in June, but because water temperatures are warm, we start looking at that even in April and May," he said.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially gets underway June 1.

Despite early predictions, one of the biggest factors in how an Atlantic hurricane season unfolds is whether the global climate is under the influence of El Niño, La Niña or in a neutral phase.

hurricane michael

Hurricane Michael just before making landfall in Florida as a powerful Category 4 storm on Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. (Image/NOAA)

AccuWeather is forecasting that the current El Niño phase and intensity should continue right through the summer, including the most active time of the season: August, September and October.

This would lead to more frequent episodes of wind shear across the basin, which limits tropical cyclone development and intensification.

"If this current El Niño continues or strengthens, then the number of tropical storms and hurricanes will be near or below normal," Kottlowski said. "If the El Niño weakens and goes neutral, the number of tropical storms and hurricanes could actually be higher than normal."

Regardless of how the season pans out, Kottlowski warns that everyone living along the coast should have a hurricane plan in place.

He said: "Now is the time to start planning. Of those people who were impacted by Florence and Michael last year, the ones who did not have plans in place had the most difficulty in dealing with the storm when it was occurring and during the recovery."

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