Weather forecasters call for an average hurricane season in 2019.

It only takes being in the path of a hurricane to make it not average, though.

ECC is an energy site, so why mention hurricanes and storms? Because storms have a big impact on electric systems, and electric service is vital to health and safety. Electric providers of all kinds across South and North Carolina have been working hard to strengthen the transmission and distribution systems against severe weather.

Typical influence of El Niño on Pacific and Atlantic seasonal hurricane activity. Map by NOAA, based on originals by Gerry Bell.

NC State and the University of Colorado are two of the major universities that make the predictions.

Colorado says there will be 13 named storm systems, five hurricanes and two will be major hurricanes. NCSU says 13-15 names storm systems, 5-7 hurricanes and 2-3 major hurricanes.

Many of us in the Southeast hear weather people talk about El Nino, how Pacific Ocean conditions can impact hurricanes here. “A weak El Nino is likely to continue through the Northern Hemisphere summer 2019 (65% chance) and possibly fall (50-55% chance),” said the National Weather Service.

Maps of sea surface temperature anomaly in the Pacific Ocean during a strong La Niña (top) and El Niño (bottom). Maps by NOAA

“Simply put, El Niño favors stronger hurricane activity in the central and eastern Pacific basins, and suppresses it in the Atlantic basin [top image]. Conversely, La Niña suppresses hurricane activity in the central and eastern Pacific basins, and enhances it in the Atlantic basin.” (Source)

The World Meteorological Organization describes the two weather phenomena that can affect hurricanes in the Carolinas: “The El Niño/Southern Oscillation has a major influence on climate patterns in various parts of the world. This naturally occurring phenomenon involves fluctuating ocean temperatures in the central and eastern equatorial Pacific, coupled with changes in the atmosphere. Scientific progress on the understanding and modelling of this phenomenon has improved prediction skills to within a range of one to nine months in advance, giving society the opportunity to prepare for associated hazards such as heavy rains, floods and drought.”