Hurricane Expert Issues Forecast for the Upcoming Season

Palm trees blowing during Hurricane Ivan (2004), on the Caribbean island of GrenadaPalm trees blowing during Hurricane Ivan (2004), on the Caribbean island of Grenada

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season is likely to look a lot like last year’s – if the forecasters at Colorado State University are correct.

On Wednesday, they released their annual pre-season forecast.

It calls for 18 tropical storms in the Atlantic, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico this year.

Of those 18 storms, the forecasters predict that nine will grow strong enough to become hurricanes – and four will grow into major hurricanes.

Tropical storms have minimum sustained winds of 39 miles an hour.

Hurricanes have minimum sustained winds of 74 miles an hour.

And major hurricanes have sustained winds of at least 111 miles an hour.

Last year, there were 19 tropical storms in the Atlantic, including ten that became hurricanes.

One of those hurricanes – Sandy – did major damage in parts of New York and New Jersey and killed dozens of people, from the Caribbean to Canada.

And Sandy wasn’t even considered a major hurricane.

This year, the forecasters say there’s a 72% chance of a major hurricane hitting the East Coast or the Gulf Coast.

But that could be anywhere from Maine to the southern tip of Texas.

And it’s too early to say when – or if – that’ll actually happen.

Since 1950, there’s been an average of 12 tropical storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, according to a report by USA TODAY – including seven hurricanes.

Why are the forecasters expecting more storms than that this year?

They say the Atlantic Ocean has warmed up during the past few months.

And warmer water gives tropical storms and hurricanes more energy to grow on, as they cross the Atlantic, the Caribbean or the Gulf.

The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on June 1st.

But during some years, storms form before the official start.

So people are already starting to keep their eyes on the tropics.