Early 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Predictions

  • Published:April 5, 2018
  • Views:2,057

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  • Here’s what we don’t want to see a repeat of — last year’s hyperactive season with numerous Cat 5 storms and landfalls.

We are still three months away from the start of the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season, and over five months away from the peak of the season, but 2017’s hyperactivity has many already on edge with anticipation. Last year finished off as a top-10 season for activity with numerous Cat 5 hurricanes and devastating landfalls across the Caribbean, and from Florida to Texas.

Colorado State’s Tropical Meteorology Project, founded by the late, Dr. William Gray, released their pre-season predictions today with NOAA’s preliminary forecast is due just prior to the official start of the season on June 1st.

Dr. Phil Klotzbach from Colorado State presented his team’s early assessment at the National Tropical Weather Conference in Texas. They predict slightly above-average activity with 14 named storms, seven hurricanes, three major hurricanes and an accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) value of 130 based on an expected return to ENSO-neutral conditions and a mix of current sea surface temperatures — warm in the west and cool in the east. They also call for a “slightly above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean,” an unwelcome thought to those impacted in these areas during the 2017 season.

The 1981-2010 average season sees 12 named storms, six and a half hurricanes, two major, and an ACE of 92. 2017’s hyperactive season saw 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes, six major hurricanes, and a total ACE value of 223. It’s always important to remember that individual storms, and not the entire season, are of most interest. On the surf front, a season can be above-average but if the storms track through the Caribbean Sea or form over the eastern Atlantic and lift north, surf benefits are limited on the US East Coast. Conversely, a below-average season filled with few hurricanes could offer better surf prospects if strong tropical storms track just north of the Caribbean and recurve off the East Coast. And the same applies to on-land impacts, it only takes one storm to make a season memorable for all the wrong reasons — 1992′ s Hurricane Andrew occurred during a four year period of ‘below-average’ tropical activity.

Colorado State releases an updated forecast as we move closer to and through the early part of the season, and they readily admit that the April predictions are the lowest confidence of the forecasts. Last year’s April forecast called for a below-average season of activity — which was the opposite of the eventual reality — primarily based on predictions of El Nino conditions developing as we moved through summer. Each subsequent forecast increased and moved closer to the eventual outcome as more data became available as we moved closer to, and into summer.

We remain under a La Nina Advisory but conditions have weakened this year and are expected to continue weakening to ENSO-neutral this spring, remaining neutral through summer. Last year’s hyperactive tropical season came under La Nina conditions which favor more tropical development in the Atlantic due to lower wind shear and lighter trade winds over the tropical Atlantic. ENSO neutral conditions are most associated with average tropical activity, however, it is important to remember that ENSO predictions at this time of year are lower confidence due to what is termed the ‘spring-barrier‘.  A new ENSO forecast is due out on April 12th.

Other groups have released early season predictions as well, including WeatherBell, AccuWeather, and Climate Forecast Applications Network (CFAN) with a range of predictions from below to above-average. Many more groups will join in the discussion over the coming weeks — the Seasonal Hurricane Predictions website amasses and averages many of these forecasts, displaying the forecasts in easily digestible graphics.

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