A total of 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes are expected this season.
According to the forecast which has been released by the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project, this is slightly above the 30-year average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes but less than last year.
After last year’s disastrous hurricane season that included storms like Harvey, Irma and Maria, foreasters do not expect much of a hurricane reprieve this year.
A major hurricane is one that is Category 3 or stronger on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.
The Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June through November. With the season less than two months away.
Near-record warm sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic contributed to the surge in activity in 2017, especially in terms of major hurricanes.
However, research scientist at Colorado State University, Dr. Phil Klotzbach, points out that while the western tropical Atlantic is currently warmer than average, other portions, including the eastern tropical Atlantic and the north Atlantic, are cooler than average,” Klotzbach said.
“As of now, I don’t see anything in the immediate future that would cause sea surface temperatures to warm up dramatically. However, there is certainly still time for this to occur, which is one of the biggest challenges with issuing forecasts this early,”
Although hurricane season in the Atlantic starts June 1, the majority of storms occur between mid-August and mid-October, meaning this prediction is coming four months before the bulk of hurricane activity.
Hurricane development could also be impacted by meteorological occurrences El Niño and La Niña.
El Niño is a naturally occurring phenomenon characterized by warmer than normal water in the eastern Pacific equatorial region. While El Niño occurs in the Pacific Ocean, it has widespread impacts on the global climate. One of the elements is increased wind shear across the tropical Atlantic, which creates hostile conditions for hurricane development.
La Niña is the opposite of El Niño, characterized by cooler water in the eastern Pacific equatorial region. When La Niña is present, conditions tend to be more favorable for hurricane development in the Atlantic.
Currently, we are in a weak La Niña and the forecasters at Colorado State believe that over the next several months conditions will change to the extent where we may not experience either El Niño or La Niña. However, Klotzbach warns, “If El Niño were to suddenly develop, that would certainly knock down our forecast.”
Regardless of the season’s activity, Colorado State forecasters remind coastal residents that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them.
Colorado State will update its outlook on May 31 after further analysis of the current atmospheric and oceanic conditions. Additionally, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will provide its hurricane outlook in May.