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Creating the Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook: May makes all the difference

The recipe for the best prediction possible involves a special combination of data and timing
April 15, 2019
GOES-East satellite image of Hurricane Florence making landfall at Wrightsville Beach, North Carolina on Sept. 14, 2018.

As we move closer to the June 1 start of the Atlantic hurricane season, you might start seeing predictions for how busy the season might be. At NOAA, we issue the U.S.government’s official seasonal outlook in late May each year.

Delivering the government’s preseason outlook close to June 1 ensures that we use the most up-to-date data and computer model predictions to inform our analyses. By doing so, we are able to factor in the latest observations and most current predictions of major climate phenomenon that tend to fuel or suppress hurricanes, such as the El Nino/La Nina cycle, the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation, Atlantic sea surface temperatures and the West African monsoon. It gives emergency managers and the public timely information to prepare for the hurricane season.

NOAA scientists update the May outlook in early August, so that the public has the very latest predictions based on new data collected during June and July. This updated outlook helps people understand what the hurricane activity may be during the peak months of August, September and October when most Atlantic hurricanes form.

Outlook accuracy
Issuing the Atlantic hurricane season outlook just prior to the start of the season has also proven to be advantageous when it comes to hitting the mark. NOAA’s outlooks are issued with a 70% confidence level that hurricane activity will fall within our predicted ranges, and they are accurate 70% of the time.

Improved computer modeling plays a vital role in the accuracy of our hurricane outlooks. NOAA’s hurricane outlooks take advantage of the high-resolution Climate Forecast System dynamical model. This model, along with new and improved statistical prediction tools, ongoing research and new analysis techniques have significantly enhanced the accuracy of our hurricane outlooks.

Stay tuned: Head over to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center and the noaa.gov homepage on May 23 for our preseason 2019 Atlantic hurricane outlook. You'll also be able to find it on our Twitter and Facebook feeds.