The long-term average of the Atlantic hurricane season is 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes, but this season will still be milder than last year's when there were 17, 10 and six, respectively.
The onslaught of storms left deep wounds across the Caribbean and southern United States that have not yet healed.
There also is a 52 percent probability that a major hurricane will move into the Caribbean Sea during the 2018 season that begins June 1 and runs through November 30, said researchers at Colorado State's Tropical Meteorology Project.
An El Nino weather pattern tends to increase upper-level westerly winds across the Caribbean into the tropical Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes as they try to form, the research report said.
Weatherbell explained that the team there believes that hurricane patterns will shift this year, "As far as impact, unlike last year when we plainly had the U.S.in the cross-hairs, this year it looks like the USA will be on the western edge of the highest ACE area (50% or more)". The average risk is 30 percent.
Though it likely will be a more active season than normal, the Colorado State team predicts a quieter season than a year ago, when there were 17 tropical storms - 10 of which turned into hurricanes.
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Two primary factors that are critical for determining how active the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season will be are whether El Niño develops and the configuration of North Atlantic sea surface temperatures.
"Hurricanes have definitely gotten people's attention after what happened past year", Phil Klotzbach, a CSU research scientist, said in an interview Thursday.
Pacific waters, alternatively, are cold and forecasted to stay cool.
This year is more hard to call because neither the Atlantic nor the Pacific is offering forecasters a lot of clues, Klotzbach said.
According to Kottlowski, conditions are ripe for early season development in the Gulf of Mexico due the warm water already in place in that part of the Atlantic basin.
By summer, forecasters should have a better indication of how much wind shear to expect and whether the entire Atlantic is heating up. While you can still find a list storm names on their website, the names are now maintained and updated by the World Meteorological Organization. "If we knew exactly where it was going to hit it would be a lot easier, but it isn't", said Fugate said.