Earlier this season I put out the initial projection for the 2019 hurricane season and at the time it appeared that the season would be near normal or slightly below normal. A lot of things have changed since that initial forecast.
Initially, El Nino was expected to strengthen and last for most of the hurricane season but it unexpectedly almost completely disappeared. El Nino is a warming of the tropical Nino regions of the Pacific ocean. When this occurs, it creates unusually strong trade winds that shear the tops off of thunderstorms and does not easily allow tropical systems to form. With no El Nino, we are in a condition known as neutral. This dramatically decreases the wind shear and can make conditions more favorable for tropical development.
So far this season, unusually dry air has been in place in most of the MDR (Main Development Region) of the Atlantic. The dry air causes a sinking motion that does not allow tropical cyclones to form. This has been causing all the tropical waves that have been coming off the coast of Africa to dissipate. Starting in late August or early September, the MJO (Madden-Julian Oscillation) is expected to strengthen. This will both add moisture to the atmosphere as well as cause a rising air motion that will be more friendly for tropical systems. When you add this to the very warm SST (Sea Surface Temperatures) you are looking at a potentially very busy season. To add more fuel to the fire, longer range models are predicting below average wind shear in parts of the Atlantic.
So if we start looking at the numbers, the second and most active part of the season could see a total of 10-17 named storms with 5-9 of those becoming hurricanes and 2-4 systems going to major hurricane status. A major hurricane is anything that is listed as a Cat 3 or higher.
The next big question everybody wants to know is where the storms will go. Unfortunately, that is not something that is always easily known. Most hurricane tracks are determined by the location of the Bermuda High. A tropical system is actually a cluster of thunderstorms that when all the conditions are met start to spin because of the rotation of the earth. They are fueled like a jet engine by the warm ocean waters.
Since they are an area of Low pressure, they will ride along the outer perimeter of any High pressure areas that might get in their way. Normally a tropical system tries it's best to recurve to the north but High pressure areas will often stop that from happening. These areas of High pressure breath in and out all summer long. If the High is on an exhale cycle it will retreat into the Atlantic and allow most systems to curve out to sea before hitting land. If a system arrives during the inhale cycle, the High pressure area will expand near land areas such as Florida and allow the cyclone to interact with populated areas causing extensive damage and flooding. The models are predicting a stronger High later in the season so that could most certainly bring threats to Florida or the Gulf as we near the September 10th peak of the season.
My advice is to take this quiet period and make good use of it and get your hurricane supplies now while you can. Make sure you have a good hurricane plan in place and know all your options. Things like canned goods and water will never be wasted, they will always be used if we do not get a hit. Please always follow all your evacuation orders if a storm does come our way. Most hurricane deaths are from water and not from the wind. Remember, hide from the wind but run from the water. With a little planning and preparation, you can make things a lot less stressful if a storm does come our way.
You can always get the latest local forecast at http://www.treasurecoastradar.com/.