2019 Atlantic, Caribbean & Gulf Of Mexico Hurricane Season Forecast (Issued March 24)

Summary: Activity during the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season is likely to be influenced by building El Nino conditions. This potentially means a lower than average number of storms, HOWEVER, this does not necessarily mean that the threat for a tropical storm or hurricane impact is lower as there is data supporting the idea of at least one landfall of a tropical storm/hurricane on the US coast and/or eastern Caribbean this season.

In addition, I am expecting the formation of at least one tropical storm in the western Atlantic during either late May or during the month of June.

The Numbers: 10 Named Storms, 6 of those storms becoming Hurricanes and 3 of those hurricanes becoming Major Hurricanes (Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale).

Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) Index Forecast: I am forecasting an ACE index this year of 95. This number basically says that I expect that overall activity in the Atlantic may be slightly below average.

ENSO Conditions: The current ENSO state across the Pacific is somewhat similar to what we had during this time in 2015 with weak El Nino conditions occurring right now. Pretty much all of the ENSO model guidance are forecasting somewhere between a weak El Nino and a moderate El Nino throughout this entire year. One big question is whether we will end up seeing a strong El Nino develop at some point this year like we saw in 2015. Unfortunately, the model guidance are not very good at this time of year in determining how strong of a El Nino occurs.

I think that, at the minimum, we will see a weak El Nino persist throughout the rest of this Spring with a moderate El Nino potentially developing this Summer and persisting through the end of 2019. With that said, ENSO forecasts this time of year can be highly inaccurate as has been demonstrated the last few years.

Sea Surface Temperatures: Sea surface temperatures along and south of 20 North Latitude are cooler than average with warmer than average sea surface temperatures occurring north of 20 North Latitude and especially north of 25 North Latitude. If this sort of ocean signal continues (cooler than average tropical ocean temps and warmer than average temperatures outside of the tropics), it could mean a “quiet” season across the Main Development Region with most of the activity occurring outside of the deep tropics.

One of the keys in determining how active/inactive the hurricane season will be is how much will the deep tropics (south of 25 North Latitude) warms up during April, May and June. It should be noted that at this time in both 2017 and 2018, the Atlantic Main Development Region was running a little below average in sea surface temperatures, but this pattern reversed during the hurricane season leading to a much more active season than what was originally thought.

I think that it is quite possible that the deep tropics will end up seeing near average to slightly above average ocean water temperatures during July, August and September. With that said, I think that it is unlikely that this region of the Atlantic will be as warm or as active as it was during 2017 and 2018.

Further north, the ocean water temperatures from the Bahamas to near the US East Coast and into the Gulf of Mexico may remain above average throughout the 2019 Hurricane Season. This could potentially mean we could see tropical systems forming close to the US coastline and the Bahamas.

Analog Years: These are the analog years that seem to be a close match right now to what this hurricane season may be like. They are 1953, 1955, 1961, 1963, 1969, 1976, 1977, 1984, 1986, 1990, 1993, 1997, 1999, 2014 & 2015.

Wind Shear Forecast:
A majority of the seasonal model guidance are forecasting above average wind shear across the Caribbean as well as across the region from the Lesser Antilles to the coast of Africa. In addition, a majority of the model guidance are forecasting near average to below average wind shear values across the Gulf of Mexico as well as across the area of the Atlantic north of 20 North Latitude. What this means is that conditions may be more favorable for development for systems as they move out of the deep tropics and towards the Gulf of Mexico and towards the Bahamas, Bermuda and the US East Coast leading to in-close development.

Risk Areas: There are 4 geographic areas I am most concerned about for the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season. They are: (1) Coastal North Carolina; (2) A zone stretching from the Yucatan Peninsula and Belize west-northwestward to the Lower Texas Coast; (3) the Central US Gulf Coast & (4) South Florida, the Florida Keys & The West Coast of Florida.

Mid-Atlantic States, Long Island & New England: Even though I am quite concerned about a tropical storm/hurricane impact for coastal North Carolina this season, there is enough evidence in the data, including the analog years & weather pattern that suggests any tropical system could easily be guided right up the entire US East coast instead leading to impacts along the Mid-Atlantic coast and across Long Island and parts of New England. With that said, there isn’t quite enough evidence yet that suggests its a significant threat as of yet.

Coastal North Carolina:
I have significant concerns for a tropical storm or hurricane impact across coastal North Carolina based on the analog data as well as some of the model guidance. The UKMET seasonal guidance, which did very well last year, is forecasting an enhanced threat for a tropical system this season. In fact, this same guidance also seems to hint at any system moving from south to north across eastern North Carolina before being steered away to the east before reaching Long Island and New England.

South Carolina & Georgia: The analog data and much of the long range model guidance seems to indicate that most of the tropical activity may be steered away from coastal South Carolina and coastal Georgia and either steered towards North Carolina and possibly points north or steered towards the Bahamas and south Florida.

Florida: Much of the analog data seems to indicate that the west coast of Florida may be at risk from a tropical storm or hurricane impact this year. In addition, it should be noted that the northern Bahamas and south Florida seems to be at higher risk of a tropical storm/hurricane landfall during a El Nino year. Because of these two factors, I have included the northern Bahama, south Florida, the Florida Keys and the west coast of Florida in an area of concern for a impact.

The Central Gulf Coast: The central Gulf coast from southeastern Louisiana to the western Florida Panhandle could be at risk from a tropical storm or hurricane impact. It seems this region of the Gulf Coast is at more risk of a landfall during a El Nino year over a non El Nino year.

The Western Gulf Coast has some risk from a tropical storm or hurricane impact this year with the highest risk of this occurring during the early part of the season. This is supported by the UKMET seasonal model which hints at a enhanced threat during June and July and the fact that a few of the analog years saw at least a threat, if not an impact from a tropical storm or hurricane.

The Central & Eastern Atlantic from the Lesser Antilles to the coast of Africa could end up being less active than it was during 2017 and 2018. It appears quite possible that a ribbon of above average wind shear may set up from the Caribbean to the coast of Africa leading to systems having a hard time developing.

With that said – there are signals in the UKMET seasonal model that suggests the southeastern Caribbean, the Windward Islands and Barbados could see a threat during August and September. Even more curious is that some of the analog data do point to some sort of tropical threat across the Leeward Islands and the Virgin Islands.

Even though I am not placing the Lesser Antilles in a threat area right now, I do think that this region will need to be monitored closely for any tropical threats.

The Caribbean is an area that could be inactive this season due to above average wind shear.

All-in-all, the area of main concerns this season will be for tropical systems forming outside of the deep tropics north of 20 North Latitude and also in the Gulf of Mexico with the 4 main areas of impact concern being coastal North Carolina, South Florida, the Florida Keys & the West Coast of Florida, the lower Texas coast and the central US Gulf coast.

Finally, we will begin sending out daily tropical weather discussions for the 2019 Atlantic Hurricane Season on Wednesday, May 1st.

2019 Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Names: