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Hurricane predictions calling for “average” season in 2018

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While Subtropical Storm Alberto was a sneak preview, Friday is officially the start of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season.

With memories of Hurricane Irma fresh in the minds of many in the Southwest Florida, and though the worst memories are gone many scars still remain around the area landscape, a groan and an eyeroll is a perfectly acceptable reaction to Friday’s news.

Here we go again.

But, after preliminary forecasts were calling for an above average season, at least one major forecaster is dialing back their initial calls for 2018.

The Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University released their final pre-season report on Thursday, and after calling for a 63 percent chance that a major hurricane(Category 3 or greater) would impact the continental United States this year, on Thursday they dialed the odds back to 51 percent. The chances of one on the Florida Peninsula dropped to 30 percent from 39 percent.

“While we still do not anticipate a significant El Niño during the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, most of the North Atlantic has continued to anomalously cool over the past two months,” said CSU researchers Philip Klotzbach and Michael Bell. “The eastern and central tropical Atlantic is cooler than normal at present. We anticipate a near-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and in the Caribbean.”

Thursday’s CSU forecast called for 14 named storms, same as in April, but dropped the number of hurricanes from seven to six and major hurricanes from three to two. The forecast also significantly reduces the number of named storm days, that is days with an active named storm, from 70 to 55, and active hurricane days from 30 to 20.

Forecasters at Tropical Storm Risk, operating at University College London, also revised their predictions downward this week. After preliminary forecasts calling for as many as 15 named storms and seven hurricanes, TSR on Wednesday called for just nine named storms and four hurricanes. If that prediction is accurate, it would be the least active season since 2014, and only the third time in the last 20 years a hurricane season saw fewer than 10 named storms.

In their analysis, Professor Mark Saunders and Dr. Adam Lea base the light season predictions on cooler surface temperatures in the Caribbean and tropical Atlantic – where most systems form.

“These cooler waters are expected to persist through the summer and to be accompanied by enhanced trade winds and enhanced sea level pressures in the regions where hurricanes form,” the report says. “These environmental factors are all inhibiting to hurricane activity.”

At NOAA, where they predict activity based on ranges, their prediction released last Friday called for a 75 percent chance that the season would be average or above average, estimating 10 to 16 named storms, and from five to nine hurricanes, with up to four of those being major hurricanes.

“Overall, the outlook reflects our expectation for a weak or nonexistent El Nino, along with near-normal sea surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea,” said Dr. Gerry Bell, NOAA’s lead hurricane forecaster. These conditions are set upon a backdrop of the ongoing high activity era for Atlantic hurricane seasons, which has produced more active hurricane seasons since 1995.”

Even amid the optimism that this season may not be as busy as 2017, which smashed multiple records for hurricane duration, frequency, and intensity, there’s still no reason to relax quite yet say the experts.

“Coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them,” Klotzabach and Bell warn. “They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.

HURRICANE SEASON FAST FACTS

Start Date: June 1
End Date: November 30
Peak Season: August, September
Peak Day: September 10(Yes, the day Irma hit)
Storms so far: 1, Subtropical Storm Alberto


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