United States — September 4, 2018 — At the middle of the peak of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, forecasters have lowered predictions a below-average year for the Atlantic Basin. This forecast is a downgrade from earlier predictions of an average or slightly above-average season, according to CNN.
So far this season there have been seven named storms in the Atlantic, with Tropical Storm Gordon most recently forming in the Gulf of Mexico off the Florida coast early Monday, September 3. Gordon is tracking northwest across the Gulf and is expected to strengthen to a hurricane, making landfall Tuesday night on the northern Gulf coast, according to the National Hurricane Center.
Forecasters warn that storm surge may cause flooding from the western Florida Panhandle to the Louisiana-Texas border. Gordon is also expected to produce 4–8 inches of rain over the Florida Panhandle and in parts of Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, and Arkansas from Tuesday through Thursday, which will likely cause additional flash flooding. Currently the storm is producing sustained winds of 65 miles per hour, but hurricane strength winds are expected by late Tuesday, September 4.
Overall in the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, forecasters expect the average of 12 named storms, but predict only five hurricanes with just one of those becoming a major category 3 or stronger storm, according to The Weather Network. An average season sees six hurricanes with three of those becoming major hurricanes. If the 2018 predictions are correct, this season will turn out to be much quieter than the active 2017 season, which saw 10 hurricanes in the Atlantic including six major hurricanes, three of which struck the U.S.
According to The Weather Network and CNN, a number of factors are contributing to the likelihood of a less active hurricane season this year. First, surface water temperatures in the Atlantic are cooler than average, and this leads to a higher probability of dry air in the region. Hurricanes depend on warm water and high humidity to develop and strengthen, so without those ingredients, storm development is suppressed.
Another factor is the strong wind shear that has been present this season. Wind shear is the change of wind speed and/or direction with height, and strong wind shear tends to break apart developing tropical storms that could become hurricanes. Additionally, forecasters are predicting a high likelihood that El Niño will form during the latter half of the hurricane season. If El Niño does indeed form this season, the high levels of wind shear we’ve seen so far are likely to continue, possibly leading to an even less active second half of the season.
Despite the lowered predictions, experts are quick to warn that these forecasts are no guarantee, according to CNN. There is always the possibility that hurricane activity will pick up later in the season, and even during a quiet season, a single major storm can still have devastating effects.