One early forecast predicts slightly above-average activity for the 2018 hurricane season.
Colorado State University’s department of atmospheric science released its extended range forecast just yesterday.
Their prediction for 2018 is 14 named storms, seven hurricanes, and three major hurricanes. It says there is a 52% probability that at least one major storm will track into the Caribbean. That’s ten percent higher than the last century’s average of 42%.
One way meteorologists measure a hurricane season is ACE: accumulated cyclonic energy. It takes into account the number, strength, and duration of tropical storms in the season. The 29-year median seasonal ace value is 92, the early CSU forecast is calling for a seasonal ACE value of 130. For a point of reference, there’s hurricane Ivan, which registered an ace value of 70.4 all by itself.
Now what does this all mean for us here in Cayman? Cayman 27 brought that question to the Director General of the National Weather Service himself, Mr. John Tibbetts.
“That sounds like good news, but be careful with the predictions, I think the last two or three predictions were a little bit on the low side,” said Mr. Tibbetts.
While CSU’s early hurricane season forecasts are generally well-regarded, Mr. Tibbetts said no prediction should be taken as gospel.
“If you remember back to April, this time last year, the predictions that were coming out for the 2017 hurricane season was also fairly low,” said Mr. Tibbetts.
Mr. Tibbetts said fluctuations in the El nino/ La Niña cycle are a major variable, as a La Nina can bring extra support for the development of storms.
“Here’s the thing, the El nino/ La Niña cycle, the ability for scientist to accurately predict it is just not there. We make reasonable guess at it and we hit it now and then and stuff like that, but there are times when we expect El nino and we get a La niña.
He said as a meteorologist, he keys into the number of named storms, the number of hurricanes, and the number of major hurricanes.
“If a cat five hurricane impacts a country, it usually takes them almost 10 years for that country to get back to normal, so it’s a life changer, it’s a nation changer, so they are very significant and need to be paid attention to,” said Mr. Tibbetts.
He told Cayman 27 whatever the 2018 hurricane season holds, the National Weather Service will be watching.
Right now Colorado State said our current weak La nina event is likely to transition into what they call the “Neutral ENSO” over the next several months, but no significant El nino is expected this hurricane season.
Looking back, last year’s CSU predictions were for a below average season, with eleven named storms, four hurricanes, and two major hurricanes, combining for an ace value of 75.
Predictions sometimes differ from reality, as we saw in 2017.The very active and at times nerve racking season that played out delivered 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes.
It entered the history books as the 7th most active season on record in terms of ace value, with a score of 223.2.