More Major Hurricanes

FILE - This Thursday, Sept. 7, 2017 satellite image made available by NOAA shows the eye of Hurricane Irma, left, just north of the island of Hispaniola, with Hurricane Jose, right, in the Atlantic Ocean. Six major hurricanes -- with winds of at least 111 mph (178 kph) -- spun around the Atlantic in 2017, including Harvey, Irma and Maria which hit parts of the United States and the Caribbean. (NOAA via AP)

A weak El Niño should allow for a relatively quiet hurricane season this year, according to Colorado State University scientists.

The university has long provided tropical storm outlooks and expects to see 13 named storms in 2019, meteorologists wrote in a Thursday news release.

Of the 13, five are forecast to coalesce into hurricanes and a pair of those to reach category 3 or higher. Category 3 storms have sustained winds of at least 111 mph.

However, some scientists and engineers — including ones at Colorado State — have wondered if storm watchers shouldn't begin using a new scale that considers the potential destructive power of a storm rather than just the wind speed. They've reasoned that systems like hurricane Sandy, which ravaged the New York area in 2012, caused immense damage despite not being considered a major storm, the current term for a category 3, 4 or 5 hurricane.

Using the current wind speed model, there's about a 50-50 chance a major hurricane will make landfall in the continental U.S. this year, and a 28 percent chance of a Gulf Coast strike, scientists wrote.

The year's first storms will be named Andrea, Barry, Chantal, Dorian, Erin and Fernand. Names are recycled every six years until they're retired following a devastating storm, as happened last year with Michael and Florence. If the 2019 season winds up producing 13 named storms as Colorado State predicts, that will bring forecasters all the way down the alphabet to tropical storm Melissa.

If 2018 had about 120 percent the usual tropical storm activity, expect this year to have about 75 percent of the average, the university's release states.

The biggest reason for the drop-off is a weak El Niño, which will allow non-hurricane winds to tear apart tropical storms as they form. A secondary factor is colder than normal Atlantic Ocean temperatures, which will provide storms with less fuel to form and strengthen, the meteorologists wrote.

As always, though, meteorologists preached caution.

"It takes only one storm near you to make this an active season," atmospheric science professor Michael Bell wrote in a statement.

The Colorado State report will not be the final word on the matter. The federal government's National Hurricane Center will release its own predictions sometime next month. Hurricane season begins June 1.


2019 Atlantic Hurricane Names

Since 1953, Atlantic tropical storms have been named from lists originated by the National Hurricane Center. They are now maintained and updated through a strict procedure by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization. 

Lists of names are recycled every six years, unless a storm is so deadly or costly that the future use of its name on a different storm would be inappropriate for reasons of sensitivity. You can view the list of 2019 hurricane names below.  

  • Andrea
  • Barry
  • Chantal
  • Dorian
  • Erin
  • Fernand
  • Gabrielle
  • Humberto
  • Imelda
  • Jerry
  • Karen
  • Lorenzo
  • Melissa
  • Nestor
  • Olga
  • Pablo
  • Rebekah
  • Sebastien
  • Tanya
  • Van
  • Wendy

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