Active hurricane season expected, NOAA says

ELLSWORTH — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is predicting a 75 percent chance of a near- or above-normal 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, the agency said last Thursday.

Forecasters at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center predict 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 2018 hurricane season, which extends from June 1 to Nov. 30.

“With the advances made in hardware and computing over the course of the last year, the ability of NOAA scientists to both predict the path of storms and warn Americans who may find themselves in harm’s way is unprecedented,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement announcing the forecast. “The devastating hurricane season of 2017 demonstrated the necessity for prompt and accurate hurricane forecasts.”

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 as many as 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 six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.

The possibility of a weak El Niño developing, along with near-average sea surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, are two of the factors driving the NOAA outlook. Those factors are set against a backdrop of atmospheric and oceanic conditions that are conducive to hurricane development and have been producing stronger Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1995.

“NOAA’s observational and modeling enhancements for the 2018 season put us on the path to deliver the world’s best regional and global weather models,” said Neil Jacobs, assistant secretary of commerce for environmental observation and prediction.

NOAA said new tools available to forecasters this year, from new and improved forecast and graphical products to next-generation satellites like the recently launched GOES-17 and GOES-16 (now GOES-East), will help build a more weather-ready nation.

“Preparing ahead of a disaster is the responsibility of all levels of government, the private sector and the public,” said acting FEMA Deputy Administrator Daniel Kaniewski. “It only takes one storm to devastate a community, so now is the time to prepare.”

In addition to the Atlantic hurricane outlook, NOAA also issued seasonal hurricane outlooks for the eastern and central Pacific basins. An 80 percent chance of a near- or above-normal season is predicted for both the eastern and central Pacific regions.

The Eastern Pacific outlook calls for a 70 percent probability of 14 to 20 named storms, of which seven to 12 are expected to become hurricanes, including as many as seven major hurricanes. The central Pacific outlook calls for a 70 percent probability of three to six tropical cyclones, which includes tropical depressions, tropical storms and hurricanes.

NOAA will update the 2018 Atlantic seasonal outlook in early August, just prior to the peak of the season.

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