Last year’s tropical storm season ended after Hurricane Irma arrived, leaving countywide wind damage, but sparing Anna Maria Island from serious flooding.
This year’s season opens with a subtropical storm that formed near the Yucatan Peninsula and came up the western side of the Gulf of Mexico, leaving a taste of what may come.
If it looks like we’re getting an active start to the season, the two main sources of tropical storm predictions agree and are urging residents in the area to prepare now.
On May 25, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center forecast a 75 percent chance that the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season will be near or above normal.
Forecasters predicted 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.
NOAA’s forecasters predict a 70 percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which five to nine could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including one to four 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.
Forecasters cite the possibility of a weak El Nino developing, along with near-average sea surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, as two of the factors behind 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 Colorado State University Department of Atmospheric Science, which originated the science of storm season predictions, agrees.
In a forecast released on April 5, forecasters estimated that the 2018 season will have seven hurricanes (median is 6.5), 14 named storms (median is 12), 70 named storm days (median is 60.1), 30 hurricane days (median is 21.3), three major (category 3, 4 or 5) hurricanes (median is 2.0) and seven major hurricane days (median is 3.9).
“The current weak La Niña event appears likely to transition to neutral over the next several months,” according to the CSU forecast.
“As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them,” according to CSU head forecaster Dr. Phillip Klotzbach. “They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.”