The National Hurricane Center has named the first storm of the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season, precisely one week before the season is expected to begin on June 1.
Currently spinning off of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula, forecasters named the subtropical storm “Alberto,” which is the first of 21 names the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has on its list of possible storm names for the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season.
On Friday, Alberto met the minimum requirements for earning a name, having reached sustained winds of 40 miles per hour.
The storm, while projected to bring heavy rainfall and flooding to areas in Florida and some Gulf Coast states both this weekend and into early next week, will not become a hurricane, according to NOAA. A storm needs to hit sustained wind speeds of at least 74 miles per hour to be considered a storm, the least intense hurricane classification.
Yesterday, the National Hurricane Center released its 2018 hurricane forecast, and they expect 2018 to be an “active season,” with between 10 to 16 named storms, five to nine of which being hurricanes.
“This is a fair amount of activity we’re expecting.” Gerry Bell, the lead hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said in an interview.
Last hurricane season — which produced the immensely destructive hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria — was exceptionally active, said Bell, who doesn’t currently expect this season to produce such intense activity.
Hurricane forecasters analyze a combination of short and long-term climate trends, along with sophisticated computer models when making their predictions for a hurricane season.
Since 1995, the Atlantic and Caribbean have seen “very active” seasons, said Bell, as a decades-long climate trend in the Atlantic Ocean has kept water temperatures warmer, contributing to a higher number of storms.
In addition to this effect, NASA says that modern storm research shows hurricanes are getting stronger, lasting longer, and dumping significantly more rain. Rising sea levels, an indisputable result of human-induced climate change, exacerbates the effect of already damaging storms by producing higher surges of water.