FORT LAUDERDALE, Fla. -- A below-average hurricane season appears likely for the Atlantic this year, according to a forecast released Thursday by Colorado State University.
The university, a respected center for the study of tropical weather, predicts five hurricanes this season, a decrease from the eight last year and well below the 10 seen in the horrific hurricane season of 2017.
"We anticipate that the 2019 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have slightly below normal activity," states the forecast from the university's Department of Atmospheric Science. "...We anticipate a slightly below-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean."
The forecast cited cooler ocean temperatures and the likely persistence of El Nino, the periodic warming of the eastern Pacific Ocean that creates unfavorable conditions for the formation of hurricanes in the Atlantic. But the university's report cautioned that such early season forecasts are less accurate than those produced closer to the season. El Nino years see more high-altitude crosswinds called wind shear that impede the ability of low-pressure systems to form the rotating structure of tropical storms and hurricanes.
Of the five hurricanes, the forecast predicted that two would reach the strength of major hurricanes, which means storms with sustained winds of at least 111 mph. The forecast said the chance of a hurricane making landfall in the United States was 48 percent, slightly down from the past century's average of 52 percent. A similar decline was forecast for the chances that a hurricane could make landfall on the southeast coast of the United States, including the Florida peninsula, which was given as 28 percent, down from an average of 31 percent.
The forecast was slightly more optimistic than a hurricane season forecast released Wednesday by AccuWeather, a private weather service that predicted five to seven hurricanes this season. Hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, with the peak period for storms running from mid-August through September.
The forecast warned that even below-average seasons can produce catastrophic hurricanes.
"As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them."
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