By: Brett Clarkson – Sun Sentinal
As we look forward to new possibilities for 2018, it might
pay to reflect on the brutal show that was the 2017 Atlantic
hurricane season, as some experts are already
saying what nobody wants to hear: Next year could bring
more of the same.
Of course it’s weather, so they qualify any predictions
with the possibility that things could change. But at this
point it looks like the same or similar conditions — warm
ocean temperatures and low wind shear, or the opposing
winds that prevent hurricanes from forming — that
gave rise to this year’s assembly line of monster storms
will still be in place next summer.
“My hunch is that we will see another active season in
2018, though we have little skill making such forecasts
so far in advance,” said Jeff Masters, director of meteorology
at the popular Weather Underground website.
“My forecast is based on the idea that El Niño conditions
will not be present next fall, as is often the case when we
see a developing La Niña event the preceding winter.”
The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June
1 through Nov. 30 each year. The time frame is when
hurricanes are most likely to form, but forecasters also
routinely point out that storms can and do occasionally
form out of season.
Editor’s Note: The good news is that Texas City, with
its track record of sustaining considerably less damage
during previous hurricane events, will hopefully continue
to be one of the safest places to live near any coast.
With the levee system, our floodgates and the fearless
and dedicated people who man them, as well as systems
like the culverts that run behind the homes off 29th and
20th Ave., the likelihood of flooding is greatly minimized.
The 2017 season was the busiest since the mother of
all years, 2005, federal officials noted in an end-of-season
summary released Thursday. It also spawned the
first and second major hurricanes, Harvey and Irma, to
strike the continental U.S. since Hurricane Wilma struck
southern Florida in 2005.
Like 2005, which was the second installment of a twoyear
hurricane onslaught, Masters said 2017 and 2018
could be a similar one-two punch. He expects near-record
high global temperatures to continue to keep temperatures
in the Atlantic well above average.
“Plus, hurricanes are like bananas — they come in
bunches,” Masters said. “We saw hurricanes go bananas
in 2004 [to] 2005, and it is reasonable to predict that
me might see a similar 2-year spike in activity in 2017-
Dan Kottlowski, a meteorologist and hurricane expert
at AccuWeather, also said the possibility of a busy 2018
season is very real. Like Masters, Kottlowski also expects
warmer than average temperatures to still be the
“The conditions for tropical development won’t be quite
as ideal [as 2017], however with the warm temperatures
across the Atlantic Basin we have to assume there will
be a better chance we’ll see an above-average number
of storms across the Atlantic next year.”
The weather patterns known as El Nino and La Nina
are also factors. Both refer to temperature phases of the
massive stretch of the open Pacific along the equator
and both affect the Atlantic hurricane season. El Niño
typically brings stronger wind shear and as a result fewer
hurricanes, while La Niña means weaker wind shear,
leading to more hurricanes.
Kottlowski said the La Niña conditions that began to
emerge this year and were currently in effect were expected
to fade by the spring or summer of 2018 into a
neutral weather pattern, which would still be more hospitable
to tropical storm formation than if El Niño conditions
were to develop, which at this point was not expected.
Dennis Feltgen, spokesman for the Miami-based National
Hurricane Center, the federal government’s hurricane
forecasting headquarters, declined to make a
prediction for 2018, saying the official hurricane season
forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration,
or NOAA, will be released in late May.
“We have six months until the next season begins on
June 1,” Feltgen said. “Use that time wisely. The farther
we get from the last hurricane, the closer we get to the
The 2017 season was the seventh most active on record,
according to the end-of-season summary released
Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“This was a hurricane season that wouldn’t quit,” said
retired Navy Rear Adm. Timothy Gallaudet, the acting
NOAA administrator of NOAA.
Among the highlights was the fact 2017 spawned an
incredible 10 storms in a row that would become hurricanes,
a feat that hasn’t happened since 1893.
And one of the first hints that trouble was potentially
lurking in the tropics was the emergence of a rare preseason
tropical storm, Arlene, in April.
In all, the Atlantic basin, which includes the Atlantic
Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, would see
17 named storms and 10 hurricanes — six of which were
Three of those major hurricanes — Harvey, Irma and
Maria — made a U.S. landfall, while four other storms
— Cindy, Emily, Philippe, and Nate — also hit the U.S.
Harvey turned America’s fourth largest city, Houston,
into a lake.
Irma roared ashore in the Florida Keys as a Category
4 storm, inflicting widespread devastation in the Keys
and significant damage in South Florida and throughout
Maria, the season’s strongest storm and tenth-most
intense Atlantic hurricane on record, laid waste to Puerto
Rico, pulverizing that U.S. territory’s infrastructure so
badly that many residents were still without electricity
over two months later.
Feltgen, Kottlowski, and Masters each said it’s not
possible to accurately predict if the years beyond 2018
are likely to see busy, normal, or relatively quiet hurricane
“No, it is not possible,” Feltgen said. “That kind of
long range science does not exist. The parameters that
would influence the 2018 season do not real reveal itself
until well in spring.”
But as hurricane experts continually say, it only takes
one big storm. After all, Hurricane Andrew, which obliterated
South Miami-Dade on Aug. 24, 1992, was that
season’s first named storm.
By: Brett Clarkson – Sun Sentinal