As the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season moves toward its traditional peak, forecasters are continuing to call for a relatively calm season in the tropics.
A report released this week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration concluded that conditions in the oceans and atmosphere are showing signs of lower activity in the Atlantic than initially predicted in May.
NOAA says the likelihood of a below average season is now 60 percent, up from 25 percent in May, and calls for 9-13 named storms and 2-4 hurricanes, with up to two of those major. So far this season, the Atlantic has seen four named storms and two short-lived hurricanes, Beryl and Chris.
Even though they’re calling for a less active season, NOAA still warns those living along the coasts not to let their guard down.
“There are still more storms to come – the hurricane season is far from being over,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “We urge continued preparedness and vigilance.”
Researchers at the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University estimate that the remainder of 2018 will have about three hurricanes out of nine named storms, one of them a major hurricane. These predictions are all below the annual average for the last four decades.
Conditions affecting the 2018 hurricane season include a combination of stronger wind shear, drier air and increased stability of the atmosphere in the region where storms typically develop, suppressing hurricane activity. Storm activity to-date and the most recent model predictions also contribute to this update. The Saharan air layer that has been sending dust over to the U.S. from the African Coast is a tell tale sign of how dry the air has been across the Atlantic, according to the Colorado State report.
Colorado State says that if conditions remain in ENSO-neutral territory or anomalously warm to a weak El Niño event, the hurricane-unfavorable conditions in the Atlantic are likely to persist over the next several months.
An average six-month hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.
NOAA and FEMA are also raising caution as the hurricane season enters its peak months.
“Today’s updated outlook is a reminder that we are entering the height of hurricane season and everyone needs to know their true vulnerabilities to storms and storm surge,” said FEMA Administrator Brock Long said Thursday. “Now is the time to know who issues evacuation orders in their community, heed the warnings, update your insurance and have a preparedness plan.”
To produce the seasonal update, forecasters take several factors into account. El Nino is now much more likely to develop with enough strength to suppress storm development during the latter part of the season. Today, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center updated its forecast to a nearly 70 percent likelihood of El Nino during the hurricane season, again, higher than the normal average heading into the peak months of the 2018 hurricane season.
“Don’t let down your guard, late season storms are always a possibility, always keep your plans updated,” Long said.
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