North and South Carolina have yet to see any significant effects of a hurricane so far in 2018. But the season is far from over.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said on Aug. 9 that the Atlantic will likely see fewer storms this season than experts expected earlier this year. And the chance of any of those storms becoming a major hurricane has decreased dramatically.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 through November. August, September and October have averaged more and stronger storms in the past, NOAA said.
In Thursday’s update, NOAA predicted 9-13 named storms this year, down from as many as 16 expected in the forecast earlier this year.
Storms don’t get a name until they have wind speeds of 39 mph or more, according to NOAA.
Atmospheric conditions “are conspiring to produce a less active Atlantic hurricane season than initially predicted in May,” NOAA said in its briefing on the update.
But scientists and FEMA were quick to remind people that a less active season is not necessarily any less dangerous.
“There are still more storms to come – the hurricane season is far from being over. We urge continued preparedness and vigilance,” Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said in the briefing.
Previously, scientists predicted an above-normal season for Atlantic hurricanes.
But NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center forecasters have now increased the likelihood of a below-normal hurricane season to 60 percent from 25 percent in May.
The likelihood of an above-normal season dropped from 35 percent to 10 percent since May, NOAA said.
The 2018 season is expected to produce as many as 13 named storms, of which 4-7 are expected to become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or more) and include anywhere from no major hurricanes to 2.
A major hurricane has winds of 111 mph or more, NOAA said.
The Atlantic has seen four named storms already this year, though none had any significant impact on the Carolinas.
An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, about 6 of which become hurricanes and three of those become classified as major hurricanes, according to NOAA.
NOAA’s hurricane season outlook is for overall storm activity, not only for those that make landfall.
“Landfalls are largely determined by short-term weather patterns, which are only predictable within about one week of a storm potentially reaching a coastline,” NOAA said in the briefing.
One of the factors NOAA scientists consider in forming their hurricane season outlook is the temperature of the ocean’s surface.
Four months ago, the temperatures of the surface of the ocean looked similar to those observed in 2017, when there were 18 tropical depressions, 17 tropical storms and 10 hurricanes, six of which were major storms — Category 3 or higher. Forecasters at that time expected a busy hurricane season because of warmer waters in the western Atlantic.
But now, the ocean’s temperatures are cooler than earlier this year, which, when combined with “stronger wind shear, drier air and increased stability of the atmosphere in the region where storms typically develop,” is expected to further suppress hurricanes, NOAA said.
“Today’s updated outlook is a reminder that we are entering the height of hurricane season and everyone needs to know their true vulnerabilities to storms and storm surge,” FEMA Administrator Brock Long said during the briefing. “Now is the time to know who issues evacuation orders in their community, heed the warnings, update your insurance and have a preparedness plan. Don’t let down your guard, late season storms are always a possibility, always keep your plans updated.”