The catastrophic Atlantic hurricane season of 2017 inflicted an estimated $282.37 billion in total damages in the Caribbean and United States. Many are hoping for a far less nightmarish 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, but the latest forecasts say that 2018 may be nearly as active as last year. Colorado State University, widely regarded as the nation’s top seasonal hurricane forecasters and have been forecasting hurricane seasons for the last 35 years, have predicted that the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season will be nearly as busy as 2017.
Meteorologist Phil Klotzbach and other weather experts from Colorado State University predict that 14 named tropical storms, seven of which will become hurricanes. Both of these numbers would be considered “above average” with the typical numbers being 12 tropical storms and six hurricanes. In 2017 there were 17 tropical storms and 10 that strengthened into hurricanes including devastating monsters such as Harvey, Irma, and Maria. Of the seven hurricanes predicted, three are expected to transform into major hurricanes that are either category 3, 4 or 5. The most active Atlantic hurricane season on record came in 2005 with 28 named storms, including apocalyptic-like Katrina.
The expert meteorologists predicted that there’s a 63% chance for major hurricanes to make landfall along the U.S. coastline. Major hurricanes are ones with sustained wind speeds of 111 mph or greater, while a tropical storm is defined as a cyclone that maintains sustained surface wind speed of at least 39 mph and a maximum of 73 mph. Once it maintains winds speeds over 74 mph it becomes a hurricane. Category 3 hurricanes have sustained winds of 111 to 129 mph, Category 4 storms are 130 to 156 mph, and Category 5 hurricanes unleash catastrophic winds stronger than 156 mph.
AccuWeather also released its hurricane forecast for the upcoming season and they are predicting 12-15 named storms, six to eight of which will spin into hurricanes. AccuWeather warned that three or four of the hurricanes would hit the United States. “Similar to last year, sea surface temperatures are expected to remain warmer than normal across most of the basin and normal to above normal over the main developmental region, where more than 85 percent of all tropical storms form,” AccuWeather said.
A major factor in helping to predict hurricanes is whether the U.S. is in El Niño or La Niña climate pattern. These are cycles that have fluctuations in temperature between the ocean and atmosphere in the equatorial Pacific that affects climate patterns from the Pacific to the Atlantic. El Niño means the Pacific Ocean is warmer, which tends to suppress the development of hurricanes in the Atlantic. La Niña is the opposite bringing cooler ocean water temperatures and does not slow Atlantic hurricane development.
“The current weak La Niña event appears likely to transition to neutral El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) over the next several months, but at this point, we do not anticipate a significant El Niño event this summer/fall,” the Colorado State University report stated. Since hurricanes are fueled by warm waters El Niño and La Niña weather patterns are closely monitored.
The names of the storms are alphabetical and the first names of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season will be Alberto, followed by Beryl, Chris, Debby, and Ernesto. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, so learn how to get prepared if you live in a potential danger zone.