MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Hurricane researchers at Colorado State University are predicting a slightly above-average Atlantic hurricane season in 2018 with 14 named storms, seven hurricanes, and three major hurricanes. Major hurricanes are category 3, 4, or 5 and have sustained winds of 111 mph or greater. The primary factor in their forecast is the relatively low likelihood of a significant El Niño.
A weak La Niña this past winter has weakened slightly over the past few weeks. While there is the potential that a weak El Niño could develop by the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, the odds of significant El Niño development appear relatively low. El Niño tends to increase upper-level westerly winds across the Caribbean into the tropical Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes as they try to form.
The western tropical North Atlantic is currently slightly warmer than normal, while the eastern tropical Atlantic is slightly cooler than normal. Colder-than-normal sea surface temperatures provide less fuel for tropical cyclone formation and intensification.
The team predicts that 2018 hurricane activity will be about 135 percent of the average season. By comparison, 2017's hurricane activity was about 245 percent of the average season. The 2017 season was most notable for Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, which devastated the United States and portions of the Caribbean. The CSU team will issue forecast updates on May 31, July 2 and Aug. 2.