Forecasters are predicting a 35 percent chance of an above-normal season, a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, and a 25 percent chance of a below-normal season for the upcoming hurricane season, which extends from June 1 to November 30.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters predict a 70-percent likelihood of 10 to 16 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which five to nine could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including one to four major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.
“With the advances made in hardware and computing over the course of the last year, the ability of NOAA scientists to both predict the path of storms and warn Americans who may find themselves in harm’s way is unprecedented,” said Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in a statement. “The devastating hurricane season of 2017 demonstrated the necessity for prompt and accurate hurricane forecasts.”
The possibility of a weak El Nino developing, along with near-average sea surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, are two of the factors driving this outlook. These factors are set upon a backdrop of atmospheric and oceanic conditions that are conducive to hurricane development and have been producing stronger Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1995.
The National Weather Service is staffing up following the most destructive and busiest hurricane season recorded in 2017, making dozens of new hires, according to the Washington Post.
The Weather Service has since October hired 71 people in meteorological positions and will finalize about 30 to 40 additional hires in the next month. For the first time in several years, the agency’s hiring has outpaced the rate of people retiring from or leaving it. A net gain of seven people now work for the agency, which is part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
“We feel pretty positive this is going to continue and going to accelerate,” Mary Erickson, the Weather Service’s deputy director, told the newspaper.
If so, the new hires couldn't come at a better time for the Weather Service, which is charged with forecasting hurricanes, thunderstorms and other major weather events. The service was criticized by lawmakers and members of its union for hundreds of unfilled vacancies, mostly in meteorological positions, that endured throughout last year's deadly storm season — including Hurricanes Maria, Harvey and Irma.