Stormy weather

Atlantic Outlook - July 2019

InsightsJuly 04, 2019

In order to better understand extreme weather trends, Norwegian Hull Club has entered into a cooperation with Climate Scientist and Research Professor Stefan Sobolowski from NORCE – one of Norway’s largest independent research institutes.

Here, Professor Sobolowski explains why current hurricane season predictions should be treated with caution.

"In May this year, forecasting centres were reporting a normal-to-slightly-below-normal Atlantic hurricane season. This was largely due to the establishment of an El-Niño, which tends to dampen Atlantic hurricanes through increased wind shear.

"Now, as July gets underway, the NOAA National Hurricane Center in the US is still forecasting a near-normal season, which typically results in between nine and 15 named storms. Yet the level of certainty regarding this near-normal assessment should give us pause for thought. NOAA has assigned a roughly equal probability to a normal (40%), above-normal (30%) and below-normal (30%) Atlantic hurricane season. In contrast to this, the forecast for the East Pacific, which indicates an above-normal season, has a higher 70% degree of certainty.


"The main reason for this uncertain prediction is that there are competing forces at work over the Atlantic basin. El-Niño conditions are still present, which tend to work against hurricanes in the Atlantic while strengthening them in the Pacific. However, warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean seas, together with a strong West African monsoon, have emerged. These factors tend to work in the opposite manner and can enhance hurricane activity.

A map showing changes in temperatures across the world's seas and oceans

"Sea-surface temperature 'departures from normal' can be seen in the map above. The yellow and orange areas indicate warmer-than-average conditions, which essentially act as fuel for hurricanes. These warmer conditions, combined with the fact this El-Niño is not particularly strong, are reason enough to raise doubts.


"For example, as late as August 2018, NOAA was predicting a below-average hurricane season. However, the season ended up above normal with 15 named storms. These included the first Category 5 landfall in the US since 1992, resulting in over 50.2 billion USD in damages."

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• The Club will, as usual, continue to monitor named windstorms and send information bulletins accordingly.