Written by Stephanie Yao Long, CNN
It’s been a great year for Atlantic Ocean hurricane season, with 19 named storms, including hurricanes Florence and Michael. Hurricanes even arrived at New York City’s doorstep, but thankfully Michael did not gain strength enough to make landfall, blasting the state with 130 miles per hour winds.
But the outlook isn’t as optimistic for 2020. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is currently predicting a below-normal Atlantic hurricane season this year.
Ahead of the next hurricane season in May, the models provide some insight into how the season could play out.
Unfortunately, the trends aren’t looking good.
“There’s been a lot of interest in the long-term picture,” says Gerry Bell, chief of seasonal forecasting for NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “In our 17-year study, the average number of named storms during a 25-year period is 17.8. In each of the last four years, we’ve seen fewer than this amount.”
Powerful El Nino
The shifting climate impact can be more pronounced in the early months of the season, when the El Nino effect is strongest.
“El Nino conditions often favor stronger El Nino-driven tropical cyclones during the very first month of the season,” reads the NOAA’s Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook issued this week. “El Nino-driven storms have a better chance of staying intact longer, producing stronger tropical cyclones.”
This past year, two of the earliest named storms of the season (Tropical Storm Ana and Hurricane Ida) initially hit in June. And the fourth named storm (Hector) came as a direct result of an El Nino.
But we have not seen conditions as favorable for storms to form as we are right now.
“In the next week, we’re not seeing any effect from El Nino,” says Bell. “It’s closer to a neutral state.”
However, Bell adds that stronger El Nino years are still possible during the season.
“You’re always a little anxious ahead of the year, trying to keep your fingers crossed that it stays as neutral as it is right now,” he says.