On April 5, 2018, the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University released their annual list of hurricane predictions for 2018. Titled Extended Range Forecast of 2018 Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Activity, the report predicts that "the 2018 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have slightly above average activity." The university has issued a list of predictions revolving around hurricane activity since 1984.
Last year, the Caribbean was hit hard by two category five hurricanes just weeks apart. Both Hurricane Irma and Hurricane Maria wreaked havoc for many island nations, including Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, the British Virgin Islands, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Florida, Haiti, Saint Martin/Sint Maarten, Puerto Rico, St. Bart's, Turks and Caicos, and the U.S Virgin Islands. Many other countries suffered damage as a result of intense winds and rain.
Across the Caribbean, lives were lost, families were displaced, infrastructure collapsed, and months later, the recovery is still ongoing. Last December, PAX attended the CTO’s Climate SMART Sustainable Tourism Forum in St. Kitts and Nevis, where hundreds of government stakeholders, international delegates, and members of the tourism industry came together to discuss key findings in the aftermath of both hurricanes. The message was clear: as a promoter and stabilizer of livelihood in the Caribbean, although it inevitably contributes to climate change, tourism cannot be snuffed out of the equation when it comes to mitigating the impact that travel has on smaller island countries.
Instead, governments and tourism boards must work together towards a sustainable solution for the sake of the Caribbean’s future generations.
“Our very existence and the viability of our economies and safeguarding the lives and livelihoods of vulnerable states demand a global response to climate change,” said Carlene Henry-Morton, permanent secretary, Ministry of Tourism, St. Kitts and Nevis, at the CTO’s Climate Smart Sustainable Tourism Forum last December in St. Kitts.
As a result of both hurricanes more than six months ago, tourism has slowed in the Caribbean as a result of consumer fear. As addressed at the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association’s Marketplace in Puerto Rico back in February, education is vital in order to get people thinking about visiting the Caribbean again. “The Caribbean is incredibly vast, and when situations like this [the hurricanes] arise, we have a job to do regarding telling the story of the vastness and diversity of the Caribbean,” said Frank Comito, CEO and director general, CHTA.
It’s no secret that climate change has directly impacted the Caribbean. Rising temperatures have led to rising sea levels and drought, which in turn, leads to a loss of jobs, promoting a weaker economy that is less prepared to face the blows that stem from natural disasters.
Colorado State University has listed the following major predictions for 2018:
• At least one major Category 3-4-5 storm will hit each of the following coastal areas: Entire continental U.S. coastline - 63 per cent (average for last century is 52 per cent) 2) U.S. East Coast Including Peninsula Florida - 39 per cent (average for last century is 31 per cent) 3) Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville - 38 per cent (average for last century is 30 per cent).
• At least one major Category 3-4-5 hurricane will hit the Caribbean: 52 per cent (average for last century is 42 per cent).
According to CSU, the likelihood of these hurricane predictions coming true depends on two key factors: the development of El Nino, and the North Atlantic’s surface temperatures.
El Nino is a cycle of warm and cool ocean temperatures. When the Pacific waters are warmer, hurricanes are less active in the Atlantic. But, when the opposite phenomenon takes place and the Atlantic waters are warm, La Nina is present, and the likelihood of a hurricane rises.
As it stands, the CSU reports that the western North Atlantic is slightly warmer than usual, meaning conditions are ideal for hurricanes to form later this summer. Climate change continues to cause the ocean to warm up, and this is true for the majority of the Atlantic Ocean.
These predictions by the CSU will be updated again in May, July, and August. To read the full report by the CSU, click here.