2018 hurricane season will be active but 'not as busy' as 2017, says forecast

The six-month Atlantic hurricane season officially starts June 1 and ends Nov. 30. There has already been a storm this season, Arlene, formed in month of April.

Canadian Hurricane Centre predicts 10 to 16 named storms, with five to nine hurricanes on horizon

A man walks along the surf as Tropical Storm Hermine passes through Garden City Beach, S.C., on Sept. 2, 2016. The Canadian Hurricane Centre predicts this year's season will not be as active as 2017. (Randall Hill/Reuters)

It will be an active Atlantic Ocean hurricane season this year, with up to 16 major storms predicted to develop, a Canadian Hurricane Centre meteorologist said Thursday.

The forecast calls for 10 to 16 named storms, with five to nine hurricanes, said Bob Robichaud, warning preparedness meteorologist. One to four hurricanes could be "major" with sustained winds of at least 178 km/h, he said.

The six-month Atlantic hurricane season officially starts June 1 and ends Nov. 30. 

"There has already been a storm this season — Arlene, formed in month of April," Robichaud said.

There is currently a disturbance developing off Mexican's Yucatan Peninsula, he said.

"It will be called Alberto if it reaches storm status." 

The Canadian Hurricane Centre forecasts about 10-16 named storms for 2018, says Bob Robichaud, a warning preparedness meteorologist. (CBC)

The hurricane centre's forecast mirrors an earlier one also released Thursday by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecast in the United States.

NOAA predicted that 2017 would be an above-average season, and it certainly was: A trio of devastating hurricanes — Harvey, Irma and Maria — ravaged Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico and many Caribbean islands. Overall, last year saw 17 named storms, including 10 hurricanes.

Harvey, Irma and Maria have been retired from the list of hurricane names, Robichaud said. "Nate has been retired as well because of some heavy rainfall in Nicaragua and that caused a number of fatalities."

The retirement of four names is a fairly rare occurrence — "the first time since the hyperactive season of 2005," he said.

"The number of storms expected are in the near-normal, or above-average range. Now is the time to get prepared," Robiichaud said.

Hurricanes depend on temperature of water, wind shear change — in wind speed and direction over a horizontal distance — and warming and cooling conditions, he said.

This Canadian Hurricane Centre chart shows factors that influence hurricane formation. They are all in the average range, indicating a near-normal 2018 season, or veering into above-average activity, says a hurricane centre forecast. (Environment Canada)

"The warmer the water, the more hurricanes we tend to get. Right now, the water temperature in the tropical Atlantic are lower than average, but we expect as we move into the summertime, they will heat up."

He said the wind shear, on average in the Atlantic will be somewhere around average. "Hurricanes don't like wind shear, he said, "so the wind shear this year is not going to a big inhibitor of hurricanes.".

The warming and cooling cycle is also expected to be about average, he said.

"Most of all of these factors point to a season that is not as busy as the one we had last year."

Too early to predict landfall

About 30-40 per cent of storms that develop in the western Atlantic or the Gulf of Mexico will migrate into Canada's response zone, Robichaud said. That zone stretches from 600 kilometres off coast of eastern Newfoundland south to mid-Atlantic states.

Three storms in 2017 made it into that zone, but none of them made landfall, Robichaud said. 

At this point, "it is impossible to say where the storms are going to go."

The Atlantic provinces tend to be in the path of the storms when they are in their "tropical storm phase," he said.

But even though not classified as hurricanes, the storms can still do significant damage, generating large amounts of rain and storm surges along the coastline.

"A lot of these … can still be potent storms as they track inland," Robichaud said.

More rain is typically found along the coast, but the rain and strong winds can head inland to Quebec and Ontario, where significant storms have struck in the last number of years during hurricane season, he said.