How 2018 hurricane outlook compares to 2017's devastation
Thursday, May 24, 2018, 15:06 - The National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is expecting the 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season to be near or slightly above normal. June 1st will mark the official start of a season that will extend until November 30th, but all eyes are already set on the Atlantic as a potential tropical or subtropical depression could form later this week over the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico.
This season anywhere from 10 to 16 storms are expected to receive names, with 5 to 9 becoming hurricanes and 1 to 4 of those becoming major hurricanes. With these numbers published by NOAA, it appears the 2018 season will be nowhere near what we saw in 2017, one of the most active seasons registered. There is a 75% chance it might be slightly more active than a normal season, but NOAA also highlights the other side of the spectrum, where there is a 25% chance it could be less active.
Despite this season being less energetic in the Atlantic with respect to 2017, NOAA experts are still warning that some of the hurricanes that will end-up forming could still be as strong and energetic as last year's Harvey, Irma or Maria.
Some areas like Puerto Rico or Texas, still recovering from the impacts of major hurricanes last year, will be especially vulnerable to any storms moving through this 2018 season. For this reason, NOAA and FEMA recommend locals to prepare evacuation plans and purchase hurricane insurance. An update to this forecast will be published by NOAA in early August just before the peak of the hurricane season.
Key ingredients for an almost neutral season
The key ingredients that can make this 2018 season just a bit more active than usual include:
- A transition between a current weakening La Niña and a more than likely weak El Niño by the peak of the hurricane season. With a weak or non-existent El Niño, we should see near neutral wind shear conditions overall. El Niño tends to increase upper-level westerly winds across the Caribbean into the tropical Atlantic, tearing apart developing tropical storms that can eventually evolve into hurricanes. It is hard to say at this point how strong the El Niño anomaly will be in the middle of the season, but at this point most model predictions are anticipating it will not be much greater than 0.5oC. Diagram La Niño/El Niño forecast for coming months
- The tropical Atlantic surface water temperature values are close to their long time average, so unless there is a drastic change in the coming months, they will not be a major influential factor for storm development. The eastern tropical Atlantic, where a good number of storms develop, is actually cooler than average. If it remains in this less energetic mode throughout the season, developing storms will have less fuel for development and intensification. The atmosphere will also be in a more stable than usual mode with a higher probability of dry air entrainment in the region, ingredients that tend to suppress organized thunderstorm activity needed for hurricane development.
Sea Surface Temperatures as of May 23, 2018. .