Colorado State University issued its updated 2018 hurricane forecast Thursday calling for 13 more named storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes — a downgrade from its April 5 forecast. One reason for the pull-back is persistently cooler than average water in the tropical Atlantic. (Image credit: CSU/ Philip Klotzbach via Twitter)
There’s been considerable attention in the media this spring to forecasts for an above-normal 2018 hurricane season, which officially kicks off Friday. But some of the most reliable forecasting organizations are making downward adjustments after considering new data suggesting that activity may be slower than originally thought.
NOAA’s forecast, issued last week, projected up to 16 named storms, although forecasters give themselves plenty of wiggle room by offering a range — this year from 10-16. The average is 12 named storms, so if we hit 16 it would certainly qualify as another busy season.
On April 5, Colorado State University predicted 14 named storms with seven hurricanes and three majors, Category 3 or higher.
In the UK, Tropical Storm Risk, a consortium of insurance experts and meteorologists that has a pretty decent track record over the years, predicted 12, six and two.
North Carolina State University issued the most dire forecast on April 16, for up to 18 named storms with 11 hurricanes and up to five majors.
But on Thursday, the CSU forecast was adjusted to 13/six/ and two. The total does not include Subtropical Storm Alberto.
“While we still do not anticipate a significant El Niño during the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, most of the North Atlantic has continued to anomalously cool over the past two months,” said Phil Klotzbach, the CSU tropical weather researcher who writes the forecasts along with Michael Bell. “The eastern and central tropical Atlantic is cooler than normal at present. We anticipate a near-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the United States coastline and in the Caribbean.”
On Wednesday, TSR issued a revised forecast for nine named storms and noted: “Uncertainties remain sizeable but the odds favour hurricane activity in 2018 being well below average.”
Forecasters referred to “considerable cooling of sea surface temperatures in the tropical North Atlantic and Caribbean Sea.” They also predict stronger trade winds and higher pressures in the Atlantic and Caribbean, all of which are not conducive to tropical storm development.
The Penn State University forecast was for 10 named storms this year, with a bottom-range low of seven storms and a top-range high of 13.
Should these reduced forecasts pan out, 2018 could be the slowest Atlantic hurricane season in four years. The last time we had nine named storms was in 2014, although those nine storms included six hurricanes and two majors. Hurricane Gonzalo, a Category 4, did a number on the Lesser Antilles in October, and Hurricane Fay damaged Bermuda a week earlier.
Could we have a quiet hurricane season even though it started early with Subtropical Storm Alberto? The answer is yes, according to experts. Early season activity does not portend a busy season overall.
Unfortunately, a slow hurricane season doesn’t let anyone off the hook. Forecasters often point to 1992 as proof. That year, the first named storm didn’t materialize until late August, and then it was a doozy — Hurricane Andrew.
RECORD WATCH: Daytona Beach was walloped Wednesday with 2.27 inches of rain, a record for May 30. The old record was 1.56 inches set way back in 1930.
Sanford reported 1.02 inches, which also set a record. The previous mark was 0.86 of an inch set in 1996.
The National Weather Service in Tampa announced that Lakeland has set a record for the most rainfall ever recorded in May — 17.86 inches. The old record was 16.03 inches set in 1979. Lakeland joins four other locations in West-Central Florida in posting record-breaking rainfall this month. (See Wednesday Florida Weather Watch post for details.)
DROUGHT WATCH: Florida’s wet May, topped off with the recent soaking from Subtropical Storm Alberto has wiped out any remaining drought conditions around the state, the U.S. Drought Monitor reported.
In fact, drought has been eliminated in most of the eastern U.S., with just a few Abnormally Dry areas remaining.