2018 East Pacific hurricane forecast: Active season to yield frequent tropical cyclones
The East Pacific hurricane season got off to a fast start as Tropical Depression One-E formed several days before the official start of the season, slated for May 15.
The fast start to the season could be a sign of things to come, as AccuWeather forecasters are predicting a slightly above normal number of tropical storms and hurricanes across the East Pacific basin this season.
The official AccuWeather forecast calls for 16-19 named tropical storms, with eight to 12 of these storms becoming hurricanes.
Major hurricanes, reaching Category 3 strength or higher, are also expected to be above normal with four to six of these powerful storms predicted for the upcoming season.
These numbers are similar to the 2017 season which included 18 tropical storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes.
"The two key factors for tropical development in the East Pacific this season will be sea-surface water temperatures and the frequency and intensity of wind shear" AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski said.
Above-normal ocean temperatures are expected across the main development region of the basin throughout the entirety of the season.
"When sea-surface temperatures are warmer than normal, there tends to be more tropical development," said Kottlowski.
People walk under a downpour from Hurricane Max on a flooded street in Acapulco, Guerrero state, Mexico, Thursday, Sept. 14, 2017. (AP Photo/Bernandino Hernandez)
Wind shear is another important factor in tropical development.
"The biggest limiting factor for development this season will be the frequency of either easterly or westerly shear," said Kottlowski.
Periods of high wind shear could limit development at times, especially early in the season.
While a neutral phase of ENSO is expected for much of the season, a late-season change could have a big impact.
"If the ENSO pattern transitions from neutral to El Niño later in the season, then decreasing vertical wind shear could lead to more favorable environmental conditions for not only tropical development, but also more intense tropical cyclones," said Kottlowski.
These conditions would increase the risk for major hurricanes to develop within the basin.
Despite an above-normal number of tropical cyclones, only three landfalls into Mexico are predicted for this season.
While less landfalls are forecast for this season, it only takes one significant tropical cyclone to cause massive damage and impact millions of people.
Having a hurricane action plan in place ahead of time is essential to be prepared for life-threatening situations.
"You want to prepare for the worst case scenario - that's called having a hurricane plan. And the government and local officials do have guidelines on how to create such a plan depending on where you live," said Kottlowski.