WASHINGTON—July 26, 2019—NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a 40% chance of a near-normal 2019 Atlantic hurricane season, with a likely range of 9 to 15 named storms and 4 to 8 becoming hurricanes. Of these, 2 to 4 storms are expected to strengthen to major hurricanes of category 3 (winds 111 mph) or higher. These predictions are well-aligned with an average Atlantic hurricane season, which sees 12 named storms with 6 becoming hurricanes and 3 of these becoming major hurricanes, according to NOAA.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to November 30 with activity peaking from about mid-August to late October, though NOAA cautions that deadly hurricanes are possible at any time in the season. So far in 2019, there have been two named storms: Subtropical Storm Andrea, which formed on May 20, and Hurricane Barry, which formed as a tropical storm on July 11 and strengthened briefly to a Category 1 hurricane on July 13, according to CNN. Barry made landfall in Louisiana that afternoon and quickly weakened back to a tropical storm as it pushed inland. CNN reported that 2019 marks the fifth year in a row that has seen a named storm earlier than the June 1 official start of the season.

Several competing factors with large-scale climate impacts are shaping this season’s predictions, according to NOAA. The ongoing El Niño conditions (warmer water temperatures in the Pacific) are expected to continue and suppress hurricane activity. On the other hand (and the other side of the globe), warmer-than-average water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean and an enhanced West African Monsoon (a major wind system affecting West Africa) favor increased hurricane activity. These competing effects are likely to balance out, resulting in a fairly average 2019 Atlantic hurricane season.

Regardless of the overall predictions and season activity, the landfall of a single strong storm can still have devastating effects, so being prepared is key. To help with public preparedness, NOAA’s National Weather Service is making a major upgrade—the first in nearly 40 years—to its Global Forecast System (GFS) flagship weather model. The upgrade is expected to improve forecasters’ ability to predict the track and intensity of tropical cyclones.