Are We in for Another Severe Atlantic Hurricane Season?

Are We in for Another Severe Atlantic Hurricane Season?

Greenhouse structures flattened by Irma at C&B Farms

It was hard to find any places in Florida that weren’t affected in some way by Hurricane Irma. Multiple greenhouse structures appeared flattened and flooded at this farm in LaBelle shortly after the storm passed through.
Photo by Charles Obern

Harvey. Irma. Maria. These three names won’t soon be forgotten when taking inventory of historic hurricane lore. The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season certainly turned out to be dramatic (17 named storms, 10 hurricanes – 6 of which were major). It ultimately went down as one of the most active seasons on record. Many who were impacted by these storms are still in recovery mode many months later. Are we looking at the same kind of scenario for 2018? Early predictions are starting to pour in.

In his just-released extended range forecast, seasoned Colorado State University (CSU) Climatologist Phil Klotzbach is anticipating the 2018 campaign will bring “slightly above-average activity.” Keep in mind, Klotzbach’s initial stab for 2017 predicted “slightly below-average” activity.

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Climate phase plays a major role in how hurricane seasons play out. Klotzbach notes in his latest outlook: “The current weak La Niña event appears likely to transition to neutral ENSO (El Niño/Southern Oscillation) over the next several months. But at this point, we do not anticipate a significant El Niño event this summer/fall.”

El Niño’s influence is historically linked to weaker hurricane seasons in the Atlantic, where La Niña and neutral years have been associated with increased tropical activity. A year ago at this time, it appeared El Niño was eventually going to be a factor during the storm season. It never showed up.

*Impressions from Irma Indelible on the Florida Farmscape [Slideshow]*

In addition to current conducive climate conditions, waters in the western tropical Atlantic are “anomalously warm” right now (fuel), while portions of the eastern tropical Atlantic and far North Atlantic are “anomalously cool.” So, what does this all mean? Here are the early numbers from CSU’s Tropical Meteorology Project.

2018 Extended Atlantic Basin Seasonal Hurricane Forecast 

  • Named Storms: 14
  • Hurricanes: 7
  • Major Hurricanes (Categories 3 to 5): 3

These numbers trend closely with AccuWeather’s recently released 2018 Atlantic hurricane season outlook.

Along with heightened storm activity comes a higher chance of land-falling systems. Klotzbach summarized: “We anticipate a slightly above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental U.S. coastline and in the Caribbean.” He also cautioned: “As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them.”

Probabilities for at Least One Major Hurricane Landfall on Each of the Following Coastal Areas

  • Entire U.S. coastline – 63% (average for last century is 52%)
  • U.S. East Coast, including Florida Peninsula – 39% (average for last century is 31%)
  • Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville, TX – 38% (average for last century is 30%)
  • Caribbean — 52% (average for last century is 42%)

CSU’s forecast is scheduled to be updated three times over the next four months. Other sources like NOAA also will be contributing similar forecasts.