Back to the hurricane drought? Forecast: Below-average hurricane activity in 2018

UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA says this year is among the lowest of all published hurricane forecasts

All’s quiet on the Atlantic front. GOES16 image showing the Atlantic – GeoColor : 2 Jul 2018 – 1515 GMT

Hurricane season didn’t officially start until June 1, but Subtropical Storm Alberto made an appearance early, causing more than $50 million in damage as it made its way inland and up the coast in late May. Twelve people — seven in Cuba and five in the U.S. — died as Alberto’s fallout included flooding, landslides, tornados and mudslides.

Is Alberto’s early-season appearance an indicator of another active Atlantic hurricane season? Not necessarily, according to predictions by researchers at the University of Arizona.

The UA forecasting model predicted a below-average number of hurricanes for the 2018 hurricane season, which runs through November 30. UA researchers are predicting four hurricanes, two of which will be major hurricanes, defined as those reaching Category 3, 4 or 5. That forecast falls below the median of seven hurricanes with two majors.

The UA prediction is among the lowest of all published forecasts, which include predictions by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the London, United Kingdom-based consortium Tropical Storm Risk and other universities.

Last year, the UA’s forecast was among the highest — 11 hurricanes with six majors — and came closest to hitting the mark. The 2017 hurricane season ended with 10 hurricanes and six majors, making it the most active since 2005 and the seventh-most active in the NOAA’s historical records dating back to 1851. Last year, Irma (Florida) and Maria (Puerto Rico) were 5s, and Harvey (Texas) and Jose (offshore Caribbean) were 4s.

Xubin Zeng, his former graduate student Kyle Davis, and former UA professor Elizabeth Ritchie developed the UA’s hurricane forecasting model, which has proved to be extremely accurate over the last four years.

“Since we began issuing our annual hurricane prediction in 2014, our average error is 1.5 hurricanes,” said Zeng, director of the UA’s Climate Dynamics and Hydrometeorology Center, a professor of atmospheric sciences and the Agnes N. Haury Endowed Chair in Environment in the Department of Hydrology and Atmospheric Sciences at the UA.

A main factor in this year’s prediction is the low sea surface temperatures over the Atlantic, where little warming occurred from April to May.

The sea surface temperatures are the lowest Zeng and his team have seen since 2014, but similar to long-term average temperatures. The Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation index in May, which describes multidecadal climate variability in the North Atlantic, is zero, which is below the threshold at which El Niño would affect hurricane activity in the UA model.

“These conditions imply an average year for hurricane activities; however, tropical Atlantic Ocean surface easterly wind — from east to west, the so-called trade wind — is stronger than in most years,” Zeng said. “This implies a stronger wind shear, which usually reduces hurricane activities. Therefore, together, we predict a slightly below average year for hurricane activities.”

If the 2018 UA hurricane forecast is as accurate as it has been over the last few years, the U.S. can expect smoother sailing as it continues to recover from an estimated $282.16 billion in damages caused last year during one of the most catastrophic hurricane seasons in history.


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July 2, 2018 10:26 am

I can remember the good old days…..when they would update and change their forecast every month


Bill Powers
Reply to  Latitude
July 2, 2018 10:34 am

I remember the good old days…when they just named hurricanes. Soon we will be naming thunderstorms.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Bill Powers
July 2, 2018 10:38 am

Why not, the Weather Channel has been naming simple snow storms.

Gunga Din
Reply to  Tom in Florida
July 2, 2018 3:56 pm

“Furious flurry “Hillary” fizzled in November. Many are still recovering.”

Bryan A
Reply to  Bill Powers
July 2, 2018 12:10 pm

Thunderstorms??? Heck soon they’ll be naming rain drops and wind gusts

Michael Lorrey
Reply to  Bryan A
July 2, 2018 2:40 pm

That is because every snowflake, just like every social justice warrior, is a special snowflake, unique in every way.

Tom Halla
Reply to  Bryan A
July 3, 2018 3:40 pm

What was that 1960’s show tune ” And we call the wind Maria”?

Gary Grubbs
Reply to  Bill Powers
July 2, 2018 12:57 pm

With commercials. 🙂

Reply to  Bill Powers
July 2, 2018 2:44 pm

They named the1962 Ash Wednesday northeaster The Great Atlantic Storm. A very powerful 3 day storm that devastated the east coast from North Carolina to New york.

Reply to  Richard T
July 9, 2018 9:46 am

Yes, this was the most devastating storm as far as I can remember destroying homes on barrier islands and retiring boats.

Tom in Florida
Reply to  Latitude
July 2, 2018 10:41 am

I don’t mind that so much, as new information comes in they should revise the forecast. Remember that the early forecasts were using predicted future weather so as that weather turns out different than what they thought revision is necessary based the actual conditions.
(that is rather clumsy but you should get my drift)

Reply to  Tom in Florida
July 2, 2018 10:54 am

yep…I got it..LOL
But you remember, they would start out with 4,588….then by August it was 3

July 2, 2018 10:42 am

I Solemnly Predict that this year’s Hurricane Season will be slightly below average. Unless it turns out to be slightly above average, and let me add that there is a moderately average chance of that happening. Or not.

Bruce Cobb
July 2, 2018 10:42 am

CO2 dunnit, case closed.

July 2, 2018 10:51 am

But about the ferocity index?
Won’t the few hurricanes that do occur be off the charts?

Reply to  DonM
July 2, 2018 12:43 pm

Or the red-vs-blue “concern” index. One that strikes Texas/Louisiana isn’t of much concern (they deserve it), but if it struck DC, New York or Boston…..

July 2, 2018 10:59 am

So in response the advanced, peer-reviewed, advocacy scare model says to move along to ice scare stories and rising seas without mention of the interglacial mm-scale trend.

Alec aka Daffy Duck
July 2, 2018 11:21 am

Changing solar cycle changes the North Atlantic Oscillation,
Changes in NOA changes Atlantic SST and SST patern,
Changes in SST pattern changes hurrican frequency.

July 2, 2018 11:45 am

Oh No!

A Hurricane drought!

Whatever will we do?

It’s obviously the fault of us humans, how will we cope without hurricanes killing all those folks the greens don’t want?

Overpopulation will get completely out of control.

Quick, Quick, sequester as much CO2 as you can. The greens are pledging to hold their breath until this crisis is averted!

Don’t let the greens die from the humiliation of it all.

The poor souls, all those slimy bodies flapping around on the ground desperate for a lungful of life giving CO2!

We are not worthy!


Louis Hooffstetter
Reply to  HotScot
July 2, 2018 9:13 pm

When and why did we become concerned about a lack of hurricanes and Arctic Ice?
And when and why did we become worried that polar bears and sharks are becoming endangered? What’s next? Will we worry that there are too few tornadoes? Will people be concerned that there are too few cockroaches and mosquitoes?

Reply to  Louis Hooffstetter
July 2, 2018 9:38 pm

…and don’t forget, we must nurture the smallpox virus back into full bloom…

July 2, 2018 11:56 am

And right after this was posted, queue up the yellow X in the gulf….. Doh!

comment image

Aggregated seasonal prognostications from varied sources. Now including CFAN.

Bryan A
Reply to  ossqss
July 2, 2018 12:13 pm

They should draw a Yellow Zone around the entire Mid Atlantic and place a Yellow “X” over it. This might just improve their chances of being correct

John F. Hultquist
Reply to  ossqss
July 2, 2018 2:13 pm

Heavy rainfall along the Gulf Coast in July!
Knock me over with a feather.

Peter Morris
July 2, 2018 12:21 pm

It’s only catastrophic because buildings aren’t built to withstand the winds. It’s cheaper to build and rebuild flimsy wooden shacks than the steel and block construction such an environment demands.

It’s not a difficult calculus, but apparently people have incredibly short (perhaps as little as two or three days?) memories.

Reply to  Peter Morris
July 9, 2018 9:54 am

In NJ , it is the flooding, not wind that retires housing. Today replacement homes are built on piling raised above grade and designed to handle wind w/o steel and block construction, by current codes. Wind may be a factor in Florida but not NJ.

Mumbles McGuirck
July 2, 2018 12:34 pm

Early season (or even pre-season) storms are not indicative of an active season, esp. with hybrid storms like Alberto.

July 2, 2018 12:36 pm

The UA forecasting model predicted a below-average number of hurricanes for the 2018 hurricane season, which runs through November 30.

I don’t give a rat’s posterior ’bout UA’s model. Joe Bastardi’s forecasts are much better (he’s forecasting generally lower activity, but w/caveats). Watch his free, daily public videos:

July 2, 2018 2:08 pm

If hurricane forecasts are to be used mainly to support political activists’ goals, then the optimal strategy would be to forecast zero hurricanes.

Then every hurricane that occurs would automatically be “worse than we thought”.

Reply to  Johanus
July 2, 2018 3:20 pm

Perhaps a better strategy would be to ‘forecast’ “minus three hurricanes”.
Then, if zero eventuate – it is, indeed, ‘MUCH Worse than anyone thought’!!

Only slightly cynical, honest, guv!

Gary Pearse
July 2, 2018 2:33 pm

Ive been drawing attention to a change in ENSO since prior to the last El Nino when extratropical “hot blobs”were exacerbating the warming. Because of the replacement of “hot blobs” with big cold blobs, Ive predicted a continued cooling, even with La Nina conditions failing to develop. It would appear that for the last few years global temperatures have decoupled from ENSO conditions somewhat. The mass of cold water near the equator in the Pacific has come from cold blob water bleeding equatorward rather than much upwelling in the eastern Pacific.

With all this cold water, even in the Gulf of Mexico, cold water off the west African coast, and in the North Atlantic, there doesnt seem enough energy to feed a strong hurricane season. UA agrees with this latter condition.

michael hart
July 2, 2018 2:37 pm

With “a median of seven hurricanes with two majors” the statement

“Since we began issuing our annual hurricane prediction in 2014, our average error is 1.5 hurricanes,” said Zeng, director..

leaves me distinctly unimpressed.

How much, I wonder, could I get paid for issuing a prediction for the coming hurricane season?

Gary Pearse
Reply to  michael hart
July 2, 2018 3:15 pm

We had a 12 year drought in land fall8ng Atlantuc canes. Did the predict this too? I don’t think so.

Steve Keohane
July 2, 2018 2:38 pm

UA researchers are predicting four hurricanes, two of which will be major hurricanes, defined as those reaching Category 3, 4 or 5. That forecast falls below the median of seven hurricanes with two majors.
So major hurricanes will make up 50% of the season instead of the median of 29%. So even a below average season is above median.

July 2, 2018 3:50 pm

Here in Australia I’ve seen the left now saying they predicted a decrease in hurricane/cyclone numbers all along.
Our Bureau of Meteorology released data showing the yearly numbers of cyclones have decreased over the past 40 or so years and they’re saying: “Look! We got it right!”.
No shame these people.

J Mac
July 2, 2018 3:55 pm

Related: Through June 2018 so far, the USA has had the fewest tornadoes for the period January through June of any year since 2005.
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