One month into the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, scientists at Colorado State University (CSU) said they expect fewer named storms and hurricanes than previously forecast and below-average tropical activity.
"The tropical Atlantic is much colder than normal," the CSU team said Monday. "A colder-than-normal tropical Atlantic provides less fuel for developing tropical cyclones but also tends to be associated with higher pressure and a more stable atmosphere. These conditions tend to suppress Atlantic hurricane activity."
The forecasters also pointed to increased odds of a weak El Nino event for the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season.
"If El Nino were to develop, it would tend to lead to more vertical wind shear in the Caribbean extending into the tropical Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes as they are trying to develop and intensify," the forecasters said.
The CSU team now expects 11 named storms to form in the Atlantic Basin during the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, with four becoming hurricanes, including one major hurricane (Category 3 or higher). In its previous forecast, the team said it expected a slightly-above-average season, with 14 named storms, seven of them becoming hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.
With the decrease in its storm forecast, the CSU team said the probability of a major hurricane making landfall along the U.S. coastline and in the Caribbean has also decreased. In April CSU calculated 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; those numbers have fallen to 31% and 21% respectively.
One month into the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season there has been just one named storm, Subtropical Storm Alberto, which formed May 25 near Cozumel and weakened after making landfall near Laguna Beach, FL, three days later. The National Hurricane Center was tracking no tropical activity in the Atlantic basin Monday, and said it expected no tropical cyclone activity through at least midweek.
Forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) recently said they expect the June 1-Nov. 30 hurricane season to be a near- or above-normal one. NOAA said there is a 70% likelihood of 10-16 named storms forming, with five to nine becoming hurricanes, including one to four major hurricanes. AccuWeather's Global Weather Center has predicted 12-15 named storms forming in the Atlantic Basin this year, with six to eight becoming hurricanes, including three to five major hurricanes.
An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes. The 2017 Atlantic hurricane season produced 17 tropical storms, about the historical average.
A combination of fewer tropical storms and a lessening reliance on Gulf of Mexico 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.