Forecast: 14 named storms

Published 10:12 am Friday, April 6, 2018

By Lorenzo Salinas


After Hurricane and Tropical Storm Harvey made landfall and dumped historic amounts of rainfall in Southeast Texas, it would probably be safe to assume most residents would want to be told the next hurricane season would be an uneventful one.

The answer is a bit of a mixed bag: Yes and no.

Colorado State University released its 2018 Hurricane Season forecast Thursday from its Tropical Meteorology Project. The prediction is higher than the long-term average but lower than last year’s one.

Specifically, CSU forecasts 14 named storms, seven of those to be hurricanes and three of them to be major ones. The forecast is slighter higher than the 30-year average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and two major ones.

For reference, CSU’s 2018 prediction is still under last year’s forecast of 17, 10 and six respectively.


Subject to change

Warning Coordination Meteorologist Roger Erickson with the National Weather Service in Lake Charles tempered expectations — or concerns — with a bit of meteorological context.

“This is normally intended for a specific location,” Erickson said of the report. “Those numbers are for the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf. But for the Gulf specifically, I’d say it’s to be determined.”

Erickson stressed the uncertainty in addressing specific areas this far in advance of hurricane season: At most, forecasts would cover large swaths of water like an ocean or subsection of it.

“What we have today (in temperature) is actually below normal in tropical and north Atlantic and parts of the Caribbean. It’s warmer in the Gulf,” Erickson said.

However, Erickson was quick to point out temperature readings are “very subject to change very quickly.”

“For instance, nor’easters could really sway water temperatures off the East Coast, and cold fronts could affect (temperatures) even here in the Gulf Coast,” Erickson said. “What we’re normally looking at today is not really a good predictor for the rest of this year.”


El Nino, La Nina

Other climate factors like El Nino and La Nina could readily contribute either for or against hurricane development respectively.

“We’re falling out of a La Nina neutral season, and that tends to develop a better environment for tropical storms,” he said.

Water temperatures near the equator tend to be cooler in a La Nina system while El Nino is marked by above average temperatures in the eastern Pacific region.

“So, we’ve been in La Nina this winter and predict a transition to a neutral state for later on this summer,” Erickson said.

A neutral state entails trade winds that blow east to west across the equatorial Pacific Ocean, warming up the western Pacific but keeping the central Pacific relatively cool. This is a weather phenomenon devoid of El Nino or La Nina, usually marking a transition period between the two.

Erickson said water temperatures are big factors when determining the likelihood of tropical cyclones — the warmer they are, the greater the chance for storm development.

Predictions for water temperatures over an entire ocean are easier to calculate than somewhere locally. Accordingly, Erickson said it was too early to tell whether or not residents along the Gulf Coast could expect warmer-than-normal waters over the summer.

The National Weather Service releases its 2018 Hurricane Season forecast during the third week of May, just before hurricane season starts.

Colorado State University will update its initial forecast toward the end of the same month.