A major forecasting agency is predicting another active Atlantic hurricane season in 2018.
AccuWeather.com forecasters expect a “near normal to slightly above-normal” season with between 12 to 15 tropical storms, including six to eight hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale). 2017 featured 17 tropical storms.
The forecasters say sea surface temperatures across most of the Atlantic basin are likely to remain warmer than normal and normal to above normal over the area where 85 of all tropical systems form. Warm water helps storms develop and retain strength.
AccuWeather Atlantic Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski says the weather pattern is likely to enter a period that would limit storm development but adds a caveat.
“Right now, we are in a weakening La Niña pattern, but the climate pattern is expected to go into what’s called a neutral pattern, which promotes near-normal wind shear,” he said. “The thing that’s causing the balance to tip in one direction [this year] is that sea surface temperatures are warmer than normal,” he said.
The federal government’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration releases its annual forecast in late May. Another authoritative source, Colorado State University, typically releases its outlook later in April.
The Colorado State University forecasters said last year that while forecasting precision is impossible in April, the general public is curious about what’s possibly in store for them.
Some Atlantic basin seasons feature below average activity but still result in a devastating storm, like Hurricane Andrew in 1992, while others like 2010 — the third most active season on record — did not feature a hurricane making landfall.
The 2018 Atlantic basin hurricane season begins on June 1 and continues through November 30. The names include Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby, Ernesto, Florence, Gordon, Helene, Isaac, Joyce, Kirk, Leslie, Michael, Nadine, Oscar, Patty, Rafael, Sara, Tony, Valerie, and William.
The season peaks in September, and 80 percent of named storms between 1981 and 2010 have formed between August and October.
NOAA offers a comprehensive guide on storm preparations.