(CBS News) — The Atlantic hurricane season will be slightly above-average this year, Colorado State University (CSU) hurricane researchers predicted Thursday. The researchers cited a “relatively low likelihood of significant El Niño” conditions as a main factor.
In total, the team believes there will be 14 named storms. Hurricane researchers predict seven of the storms will become hurricanes and three will reach “major hurricane strength with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater.”
They explained why El Niño patterns are likely to make a difference.
“El Niño tends to increase upper-level westerly winds across the Caribbean into the tropical Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes as they try to form,” the researchers said.
CSU hurricane researchers believe this season’s activity will be about 135 percent of the average season. For reference, last year’s hurricane activity — which included— was nearly two and a half times greater than average.
The team forms their forecasts by using 60 years of data, referencing sea surface temperatures, vertical wind shear levels, sea level pressures, El Niño conditions and other factors. They plan to provide updates on May 31, July 2 and Aug. 2.
The 2018 Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.
While the CSU team said their predictions provide “a best estimate” of what to expect, they’re not foolproof, and coastal residents should be sure and take precautions to protect themselves.
“It takes only one storm near you to make this an active season,” said Michael Bell, an associate professor in the Department of Atmospheric Science, who worked on the report.