Following last year’s devastating series of storms, Colorado State University weather experts are predicting a slightly above-average hurricane season for 2018.
The university’s report, issued Thursday, says the upcoming June-to-November season is expected to produce 14 named storms, seven of which will reach hurricane strength. Three of the hurricanes are predicted to reach major strength as category 3 or greater. There is a 52 percent chance one of those major storms will make landfall in the Caribbean, the report says. The likelihood of a U.S. coast being hit is 63 percent.
An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms and seven hurricanes, three of which are category 3 or higher. The chance of a hurricane hitting land in the Caribbean normally stands at 42 percent.
Last year, hurricanes Irma and Maria blasted their way through the Caribbean, causing deaths and leaving massive destruction on a number of islands, including the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
A hurricane forecast from the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is due out in May.
Danielle Coleman, deputy director of preparedness and planning at Hazard Management Cayman Islands, said that while her department pays attention to such reports, they do not impact the work being done to prepare for when a hurricane strikes the Cayman Islands.
“Our preparation will always be the same,” Ms. Coleman said in an email. “We prepare for the worst and hope for the best. Predictions are just that, predictions, and they frequently change during the season.”
She said her department continues to meet with emergency support agencies, shelter management teams and the Red Cross to ensure services are in place. It also holds simulation drills.
The Colorado State University forecasters based their predictions on a number of factors, including diminishing La Niña conditions in the Pacific and cooler surface water temperatures in the eastern tropical Atlantic. Surface temperatures in the western tropical North Atlantic, the birthplace of most hurricanes, are currently above average. Warm surface temperatures act as an engine in forming and driving powerful storms.
The report says the Colorado team “bases its forecasts on over 60 years of historical data that include Atlantic sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures, vertical wind shear levels (the change in wind direction and speed with height in the atmosphere), El Niño (warming of waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific), and other factors.”
Two other weather agencies recently released their hurricane season predictions.
Accuweather’s forecast was released on Tuesday. It predicts 12-15 named storms, with seven to eight hurricanes. Three to five of the hurricanes will reach major strength, the forecasters say, and they predict that three or four hurricanes will make landfall in the United States or Caribbean territories. Last year, that number was six.
Global Weather Oscillations, which claims it was one of the few weather organizations to correctly predict last year’s overly active season, is less optimistic about 2018. In January, it issued a forecast saying this year will be similar to last.
It is predicting 16 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes. It says four hurricanes, two of which will be major, are likely to hit the United States.
“At the end of the day, Cayman needs to be prepared for anything and everything,” Ms. Coleman said. “We advise the public to get their hurricane supplies ready, make a plan and be ready for whatever the season holds for us.”