NOAA sees active tropical season

Federal meteorologists predict slightly busier year than Colorado State

By Mark Collins - Meteorologist, Rebecca Barry - Meteorologist, AP Author

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - U.S. government forecasters are expecting an active Atlantic hurricane season.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast released Thursday calls for 10 to 16 named storms, with five to nine hurricanes. One to four hurricanes could be "major" with sustained winds of at least 111 mph.

If that forecast holds, it would make for a near-normal or above-normal season. An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

NOAA predicted that 2017 would be an above-average season, and it certainly was: A trio of devastating hurricanes -- Harvey, Irma and Maria -- ravaged Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and many Caribbean islands. Overall, last year saw 17 named storms, including 10 hurricanes.

The six-month Atlantic hurricane season officially starts June 1.

Comparing 2 forecasts

NOAA is calling for a slightly more active season than was forecasted by the Colorado State University, the institution which pioneered seasonal hurricane predictions.

CSU said in April this season would be active, but might not be as busy as 2017 -- although its forecast is due to the updated on May 31. 

  Named storms Hurricanes Major hurricanes*
Average 12 6 3
NOAA 10-16 5-9 1-4
CSU 14 7 3
2017 17 10 6

* major hurricane defined as Category 3 or greater

Both groups look at factors like seas-surface temperatures in the Atlantic and Pacific. 

Warm water in the Atlantic increases the potential for storms, yet it decreases activity when warm water develops in the Pacific in a process called El Nino.

The flurry of hurricanes last year began in August when a Pacific cold water event called La Niña formed. Currently this feature is weak and will be watched closely but  forecast models do not anticipate a significant return.

One feature in our favor for reducing storms is the unusually cold Atlantic water temperatures.

CSU's lead forecaster, Philip Klotzbach, noted the tropical Atlantic is unusually cool -- now the sixth-coldest on record since 1982 for late May.

The cool down is the result of stronger easterly trade winds that induces more cooling evaporation and upwelling. 

The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

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