FORT COLLINS, CO — While last year’s Hurricane Irma will not soon be forgotten in the Sunshine State and Puerto Rico is still reeling from Maria, weather researchers at Colorado State University said on Thursday they are predicting a slightly above-average Atlantic Hurricane season in 2018. The university’s Tropical Meteorology Project team is predicting 14 named storms between June 1 to Nov. 30. Of those, researchers expect seven to become hurricanes and three to reach major hurricane strength.
"It takes only one storm near you to make this an active season," warned Michael Bell of the University’s Tropical Meteorology Project.
According to the researchers, the predictions show a less than 40 percent chance a major hurricane will strike the U.S. East Coast. In North Carolina, they say there is a 36 percent probability the state will be impacted by a hurricane and a 10 percent chance of impact from a major hurricane.
Colorado State University hurricane researchers blame the prediction on what they described as a relatively low likelihood of a significant El Niño.
"Tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently near their long-term average values. Consequently, they are considered a neutral factor for 2018 Atlantic hurricane activity at the present time," according to researchers. "El Niño tends to increase upper-level westerly winds across the Caribbean into the tropical Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes as they try to form."
The team based its predictions on more than 60 years of historical data that include Atlantic sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures, vertical wind shear levels (the change in wind direction and speed with height in the atmosphere), El Niño (warming of waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific), and other factors.
So far, the 2018 hurricane season appears to be shaping up like the hurricane seasons of 1960, 1967, 1996, 2006 and 2011.
"The years 1960, 1967 and 2006 had near-average Atlantic hurricane activity, while 1996 and 2011 were both above-normal hurricane seasons," explained the university’s Phil Klotzbach, who presented the findings on Thursday at the National Tropical Weather Conference in South Padre Island, Texas.
"The team predicts that 2018 hurricane activity will be about 135 percent of the average season. By comparison, 2017’s hurricane activity was about 245 percent of the average season," according to researchers. "The 2017 season was most notable for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria, which devastated the United States and portions of the Caribbean."
The CSU team will issue forecast updates on May 31, July 2 and Aug. 2.
Researchers caution that the prediction is only intended to be a best estimate of hurricane activity during the upcoming season — not an exact measure. This is the 35th year that the CSU hurricane research team has issued the Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecast.
The report also included the following probabilities of major hurricanes making landfall:
63 percent for the entire U.S. coastline (average for the last century is 52 percent) 39 percent for the U.S. East Coast, including the Florida peninsula (average for the last century is 31 percent) 38 percent for the Gulf Coast from the Florida panhandle westward to Brownsville (average for the last century is 30 percent) 52 percent for the Caribbean (average for the last century is 42 percent).
Visit the Landfall Probability website for information on all coastal states as well as 11 regions and 205 individual counties along the U.S. coastline from Brownsville, Texas, to Eastport, Maine. Landfall probabilities for regions and counties are adjusted based on the current climate and its projected effects on the upcoming hurricane season.
Original reporting by Patch Editor Paul Scicchitano
Photo via Olaf Naami/Shutterstock