As we approach peak of Atlantic hurricane season, experts forecast remainder of 2020 season to be “extremely active”

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(WFXR) — Experts with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Colorado State University have recently forecast an “extremely active” 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. This, as we approach the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season.

“The peak of the season – August, September, and October – that’s when the bulk, 90-to-95-percent of the hurricanes and major hurricanes form,” said Dr. Gerry Bell, a hurricane climate specialist and research meteorologist for NOAA.

As of Aug. 11, nine named storms have formed in the Atlantic for 2020: including tropical storms Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, and Gonzalo and hurricanes Hanna and Isaias.

For their Aug. 6 update, NOAA experts predict an above-average hurricane season by predicting 19 – 25 named tropical cyclones for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. This outlook includes the nine named storms from earlier in the year. NOAA is also expecting seven to eleven hurricanes and, of those, three to six major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher).

NOAA predicts an “extremely active” hurricane season (Source: NOAA)

Colorado State University has issued forecasts of Atlantic basin hurricane activity for more than 36 years. They have also increased their forecast to show an active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season with 24 named storms, twelve hurricanes, and five major hurricanes.

Both NOAA and Colorado State University have named these factors for why they area forecasting an active tropical cyclone season:

  • Warmer-than-average water temperatures in the Atlantic: Warm ocean waters help to fuel tropical cyclones. Tropical systems depend on the heat energy from warm ocean waters in order to strengthen and mature.
  • Less vertical wind shear: High wind shear can inhibit tropical cyclone development and weaken cyclones by “shearing” these storms apart. By having less vertical wind shear in place, then tropical cyclones will have the chance to grow and strengthen.
  • A potential La Niña: There may be a transition over the weak La Niña conditions later this summer. When there is a La Niña phase in place, vertical wind shear decreases over the Atlantic, allowing for further tropical cyclone development. In the past, hurricane seasons that fall on a La Niña phase have generally been considered active. However, just because a La Niña phase is in place does not necessarily mean more activity.

Dr. Bell says these factors could be conducive to seeing late season activity as well.

“You tend to have early-season activity, as well as late-season activity — for instance, November,” Dr. Bell said. “So I wouldn’t be surprised at all if we don’t have some systems in November this year.”

One aspect about the outlooks is they don’t forecast how many hurricanes will make landfall.

“Our seasonal hurricane outlook is for the overall activity. It’s not, N-O-T, not a landfall forecast,” Dr. Bell noted. “The reason is — as we all know —where a storm strikes, how many storms strike, how strong they are when they make landfall, all of those characteristics they’re really determined by the weather pattern that are in place at the time that the storm is approaching. You just cannot predict those weather patterns in more than about five days in advance.”

However, Dr. Bell urges others not to solely focus on the number of named storms.

“The key thing here is not the number of the outlook, but rather you need to make sure you’re prepared now because this is the peak of the hurricane season,” Bell explained. “It’s when 90- to 95-percent of all hurricanes and major hurricanes form, and we’ve still have a long ways to go with this season.”

People should make sure they are prepared for any storm that may impact their area. Have a hurricane plan in place in case you need to evacuate from your home. Have an emergency supply kit on hand that not only has the supplies you’ll need to get through the storm, but also for the potential aftermath. 

As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them. They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.

Department of Atmospheric Science, Colorado State University

It’s important to stay informed as we head into the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. Make sure to stay up to date with our WFXR Pinpoint Weather Team on-air and online.

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