After an extremely busy 2017 hurricane season, which caused billions of dollars in damage and hundreds of deaths, forecasters agree the upcoming season will likely pack plenty of punch.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said there is a 75 percent chance of normal or above-normal hurricane activity during the 2018 season, which generally runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.
The agency is calling for 10 to 16 named storms during that period, five to nine of which could become hurricanes, and up to four could become major storms with winds exceeding 110 mph (Category 3).
Forecasters at Colorado State University (CSU) reached a similar overall conclusion, predicting 13 named storms and six hurricanes. The report, issued by the university’s Tropical Meteorology Project, estimates two major storms.
In an average season, there are 12 named storms, six of which reach Category 1 hurricane status with winds of 74 mph or greater. It’s normal to have at least three major storms. In 2017, there were 17 named storms in the North Atlantic, 10 of which became hurricanes. Six storms reached Category 3 or stronger.
In the U.S., Hurricane Harvey made landfall south of Houston as a Category 4 storm last August. Less than three weeks later, Hurricane Irma slammed into southwest Florida as a Category 3 storm. Ten days later, Hurricane Maria hit Puerto Rico, where it inflicted untold damage. Parts of Puerto Rico and some Caribbean islands still have not fully recovered.
Thousands of private sailboats, powerboats and yachts were damaged or destroyed by these storms. The Coast Guard and other partners spent months removing sunken vessels from beaches, marinas and navigation channels.
Factors driving the 2018 hurricane season include the possibility of a weak El Nino developing and near-average sea surface temperatures developing along the tropical regions, NOAA’s Dr. Gerry Bell said in May.
“These conditions are set upon a backdrop of the ongoing high activity era for Atlantic hurricane seasons, which have produced more active hurricane seasons since 1995,” he said.
The agency correctly forecast that the 2017 season would be more active than normal.
CSU forecasters Philip J. Klotzbach and Michael M. Bell, however, have identified trends that could moderate hurricane activity. These include cooling in recent months in the tropical Atlantic Ocean.
“The far North Atlantic remains colder than normal, potentially indicative of a negative phase of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO),” the researchers said in an updated hurricane season forecast issued May 31. “Negative phases of the AMO tend to be associated with overall less conducive conditions for Atlantic hurricane activity.”
Klotzbach and Bell believe there is a 51 percent chance that a Category 3 storm (winds exceeding 110 mph) will make landfall in the U.S, while the likelihood of such a storm hitting the East Coast, Florida or the Gulf Coast is about one in three. The odds of a major storm entering the Caribbean Sea is about 41 percent.
Those forecasts are all slightly less than historical averages for each region.