With eight weeks remaining until the start of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, scientists at Colorado State University (CSU) said they expect slightly-above-average tropical storm activity this year.
The CSU team said Thursday it expects 14 named storms to form in the Atlantic Basin during the June 1-Nov. 30 hurricane season, with seven becoming hurricanes, including three major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher).
"The current weak La Nina event appears likely to transition to neutral ENSO [El Nino-Southern Oscillation] over the next several months, but at this point, we do not anticipate a significant El Nino event this summer/fall," the CSU team said in an extended range forecast. "The western tropical Atlantic is anomalously warm right now, while portions of the eastern tropical Atlantic and North Atlantic are anomalously cool.
“Consequently, our Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation index is near its long-term average. We anticipate a slightly above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean."
There is a 52% probability of at least one major hurricane tracking into the Caribbean and a 38% probability of a major hurricane making landfall on the Gulf Coast, the forecasters said.
The CSU forecast is in line with one issued Monday by AccuWeather's Global Weather Center, which predicted 12-15 named storms forming in the Atlantic Basin this year, with six to eight becoming hurricanes, including three to five major hurricanes. Tropical activity in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM) could begin early in the season, thanks to warm water already in place there, AccuWeather said.
The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season produced 17 tropical storms, about the historical average.
A combination of fewer tropical storms and a lessening reliance on GOM oil and natural gas production, thanks to the growth in production from inland unconventional plays, has kept hurricane-related damage to the nation's energy infrastructure and markets to a minimum in recent years.
Last August, Hurricane Harvey hit South Texas as a Category 4 storm, with catastrophic rainfall disrupting lives and shuttering the energy breadbasket of the United States. But even Harvey, the strongest storm to hit Texas since Carla in 1961, couldn't knock out domestic production, and Henry Hub spot prices remained stable. At the same time, the Sabine Pass LNG export terminal on the Texas coast was closed for about two weeks.