Could Hurricane Season Be Quieter Than Originally Expected?

If recent forecasts hold, hopefully we won't have to face something like this again in 2018.
Google Earth screenshot of Memorial Drive near Beltway 8 in early September, 2017.
If recent forecasts hold, hopefully we won't have to face something like this again in 2018.
It is understandable that many Houstonians remain on edge now that hurricane season is officially underway. And while we don't encourage people to be nervous, we do think that being prepared is critical to any summer along the upper Texas coast. We do get tropical storms from time to time. Sometimes, they are hurricanes. Sometimes, they dump 50 inches of rain on us. It is why being ready for anything come hurricane season is a smart move.

Having said that, there may be some hope for the 2018 hurricane season.

Earlier this spring, there were rumors and reports floating around Facebook (in particular) claiming 2018 could be substantially worse than 2017, even going so far as to predict a major storm hitting the Houston area early in the season. Politifact, were it fact checking such a thing, might report this as pants on fire. Not only are predictions in the spring rarely accurate, but none of the reports came from trusted weather sources.

Still, in May, most of the forecasts, including the esteemed team at Colorado State University, called for a slightly more active than normal season. But, that was recently revised downward (if only marginally) thanks to some new data, and, for those concerned about hurricanes, that new data is promising.

As explained over at WeatherTiger, the water in the tropical Atlantic is rather cool at the moment by most standards. In fact, it's a couple degrees cooler than this time of year normally. This is due, at least in part, to stronger than average trade winds blowing across the Atlantic, which have served to suppress sea surface temperatures, a critical component in the development of tropical storms.

Forecasters often survey historical climatology for clues as to what a season might do. They look at the position of upper level dynamics, sea surface temperatures, the existence of El Niño or La Niña and other keys to storm formation across the region. WeatherTiger believes, climatologically, the closest seasons to 2018 (at least right now) were 1976, 2009, 1986, 2002, 1994. Those years, collectively, averaged about nine named storms and four hurricanes, with one major hurricane. That is well below average over the last several decades.

And during those five years, only three hurricanes made landfall along the U.S. coastline.

The problem with any forecast is, as everyone is quick to point out, it only takes one. The hurricane season of 1983 was rather unremarkable except for one storm: Hurricane Alicia. Anyone who has lived in Houston long enough remembers that was more than adequate for an otherwise quiet year.

So, regardless of what forecasts may say, it is best to be ready. But, we won't lie, it feels pretty good to hear some positive news when it comes to hurricanes in 2018.