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How the 2018 hurricane season defied the forecast

The Weather Network logo The Weather Network 2018-10-17 The Weather Network
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Despite its quiet start, the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season has had devastating impacts with two significant and deadly landfalls on U.S. soil and has even the most experienced tropical forecasters in the industry intrigued as many were anticipating a quieter season. That being said, we aren't out of the woods just yet, as the season doesn't officially end until November 30. 

So where does the season stand, climatologically?

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OFFICIAL FORECAST - NOAA 2018

Seasonal forecasters with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center were forecasting a quieter season than 2017, which brought devastating storms like Harvey, Maria and Irma to name a few, but the pattern for 2018 was looking very different in comparison to the previous year.

The Main Development Region - a zone at 10-20 north latitude in the Atlantic ocean where most tropical development initiates - had cooler waters, more wind shear and overall less favourable conditions. This spring, the region had cooled (compared to normal) leading many forecasters to believe it would be a below average year for hurricanes. The forecast in May called for a 75-percent chance that the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season would be near or above normal.

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NOAA UPDATE - CHANGE IN AUGUST

Back in August, NOAA forecasters adjusted their initial Atlantic hurricane season predictions, increasing the likelihood of a below-normal Atlantic hurricane season to 60 percent. In the August update, the likelihood of a near-normal season sat at 30 percent, and the chance of an above-normal season dropped from 35 percent to 10 percent.

NOAA downgraded their forecast by dropping the amount of named storms to a total of 9-13 with which 4-7 would become hurricanes, including 0-2 major hurricanes with winds winds of 178 km/h or greater.

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WHAT WE'VE ACTUALLY SEEN SO FAR

To date, we have already seen 14 named storms with seven hurricanes, two of which became major hurricanes. That puts the season as a whole slightly above average in terms of named storms and hurricanes, but around average for major hurricanes.

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THE TWO MAJOR HURRICANES OF 2018

FLORENCE

On September 5, Florencebecame the first major hurricane of the season. Many were caught off guard as it was a traditional long track easterly wave that developed in the MDR. This was not supposed to happen right? Wrong. It happened. The storm reached peak intensity as a Category 4 storm as of September 10. By the time it made landfall it weakened to a strong Category 1 hurricane causing catastrophic damage in the Carolinas, primarily as a result of freshwater flooding. Florence dropped a maximum total of 35.93 inches (913 mm) of rain in Elizabethtown, North Carolina, becoming the wettest tropical cyclone recorded in the Carolinas.

MICHAEL

Only weeks later, Hurricane Michaelformed, but this time much closer to the coast. This was not a long track Cape Verde style hurricane, it was a cluster of thunderstorms off the Yucatan Peninsula that intensified very quickly. On October 6, the system became sufficiently organized to be declared a potential tropical cyclone. Early on the next morning it formed into a depression and then a tropical storm hours later. Michael quickly became a hurricane around midday on October 8 as a result of rapid intensification. The storm made landfall at 2:00 pm local time on October 10, with sustained winds of 155 miles per hour (250 km/h) and a minimum central pressure of 919 millibars, becoming the strongest storm of the season and also the third-strongest landfalling hurricane in the U.S. on record. The storm was deadlyand took the lives of at least 18 people across the deep south and caused an estimated eight billion dollars in damage.

SEASON STILL NOT OVER YET

The season will not be officially over until November 30 and there is still a chance, despite being in a quiet pattern right now, that we see more tropical activity before the season ends. It is important to have a hurricane safety planin place now so you are not caught off guard.

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