CSU 2018 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast: Slightly Above-Average

A slightly above-average Atlantic hurricane season is likely in 2018, said the hurricane forecasting team from Colorado State University (CSU) in their latest seasonal forecast issued April 5. Led by Dr. Phil Klotzbach, with coauthor Dr. Michael Bell, the CSU team is calling for an Atlantic hurricane season with 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, 3 intense hurricanes, and an Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) of 130. The long-term averages for the period 1981 - 2010 were 12 named storms, 6.5 hurricanes, 2 intense hurricanes, and an ACE of 92. The CSU outlook also calls for a 63% chance of a major hurricane hitting the U.S. in 2018 (long term average is 52%), with a 39% chance for the East Coast and Florida Peninsula (long term average is 31%), and a 38% chance for the Gulf Coast (long term average is 30%). The Caribbean is forecast to have a 52% chance of seeing at least one major hurricane (long term average is 42%).

Five years with similar pre-season February and March atmospheric and oceanic conditions were selected as “analog” years that the 2018 hurricane season may resemble. These years were characterized by weak La Niña to weak El Niño conditions during August-October, but with a wide variety of tropical and North Atlantic sea surface temperature (SST) patterns, due to the large uncertainty as to what the Atlantic SSTs will look like this summer and fall:

1960 (8 named storms, 4 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes)
1967 (8 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 1 intense hurricane)
1996 (13 named storms, 9 hurricanes, and 6 intense hurricane)
2006 (10 named storms, 5 hurricanes, and 2 intense hurricanes)
2011 (19 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 4 intense hurricanes)

The average activity for these years was 11.6 named storms, 6.2 hurricanes, 3.0 major hurricanes, and an ACE of 114—slightly above the long-term average. The most notable storms during these years were Category 4 Hurricane Donna of 1960, Category 5 Hurricane Beulah of 1967, Category 3 Hurricane Fran of 1996, and Category 3 Hurricane Irene of 2011.

NOAA Forecasters predict a near- or above-normal 2018 Atlantic hurricane season

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a 75-percent chance that the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season will be near- or above-normal.

Forecasters predict a 35 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 25 percent chance of a below-normal season for the upcoming hurricane season, which extends from June 1 to November 30.

“With the advances made in hardware and computing over the course of the last year, the ability of NOAA scientists to both predict the path of storms and warn Americans who may find themselves in harm’s way is unprecedented,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. “The devastating hurricane season of 2017 demonstrated the necessity for prompt and accurate hurricane forecasts.”

NOAA’s forecasters predict a 70-percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes. 

The possibility of a weak El Nino developing, along with near-average sea surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, are two of the factors driving this outlook. These factors are set upon a backdrop of atmospheric and oceanic conditions that are conducive to hurricane development and have been producing stronger Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1995.

The National Hurricane Center Will Make Important Changes To Their Forecasts In 2018

The National Hurricane Center (NHC) is one of the most important parts of the federal government’s efforts to keep us safe from hazardous weather. The meteorologists at this agency in Miami, Florida, work day and night to predict hurricanes before they come anywhere near land. They do a fantastic job forecasting tropical cyclones and their forecasts and products get better every year. After each season, forecasters look over what they could have done better and implement changes to rectify the problem. Here’s a look at some of the changes you’ll see during the upcoming hurricane season.

The Cone of Uncertainty Shrinks

The most visible product issued by the NHC is the cone of uncertainty. The cone is the margin of error in the track forecast for the center of a tropical cyclone. The center of a storm historically stays within the cone 66 percent of the time. Forecasts have steadily gotten better over the past five years, and this improvement in skill reflects in the forecasters’ margin of error.

The average error in the track forecast for a storm at the 12-hour point was 33 miles back in 2013. In 2018, the margin of error at the same timestep will be just 26 miles. The improvement is even more pronounced several days out. The average track error five days out back in 2013 was a whopping 239 miles—the same distance as a drive from New York City to Washington, D.C. The average error in track forecast five days out is just 198 miles today. You may not perceive the thinning of the cone of uncertainty on forecast maps, but it’ll be noticeable if you compare a storm this summer to another storm from years past.

The shrinking of the cone of uncertainty reflects better skill in forecasting in recent years. But it’s important to remember that each storm is different and presents its own set of challenges. Some storms are much easier to predict than others. The cone is also valid only for the center of the storm, and storms can (and sometimes do) stray far outside of the cone. The rain, wind, and storm surge produced by a storm can extend hundreds of miles from the center of circulation.

Hurricane Names

The following list of names will be used for named storms that form in the North Atlantic in 2018. Retired names, if any, will be announced by the World Meteorological Organization in the spring of 2019. The names not retired from this list will be used again in the 2024 season. This is the same list used in the 2012 season, with the exception of the name Sara, which replaced Sandy.

  • Alberto (unused)
  • Beryl (unused)
  • Chris (unused)
  • Debby (unused)
  • Ernesto (unused)
  • Florence (unused)
  • Gordon (unused)
  • Helene (unused)
  • Isaac (unused)
  • Joyce (unused)
  • Kirk (unused)
  • Leslie (unused)
  • Michael (unused)
  • Nadine (unused)
  • Oscar (unused)
  • Patty (unused)
  • Rafael (unused)
  • Sara (unused)
  • Tony (unused)
  • Valerie (unused)
  • William (unused)

The following names will be used for named storms that form in the northeastern Pacific Ocean during 2018. Retired names, if any, will be announced by the World Meteorological Organization in the spring of 2019. The names not retired from this list will be used again in the 2024 season. This is the same list used in the 2012 season.

  • Aletta (unused)
  • Bud (unused)
  • Carlotta (unused)
  • Daniel (unused)
  • Emilia (unused)
  • Fabio (unused)
  • Gilma (unused)
  • Hector (unused)
  • Ileana (unused)
  • John (unused)
  • Kristy (unused)
  • Lane (unused)
  • Miriam (unused)
  • Norman (unused)
  • Olivia (unused)
  • Paul (unused)
  • Rosa (unused)
  • Sergio (unused)
  • Tara (unused)
  • Vicente (unused)
  • Willa (unused)
  • Xavier (unused)
  • Yolanda (unused)
  • Zeke (unused)




National Weather

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