NOAA Predicts Above-Average Hurricane Season for 2020

The season began early this year, as Tropical Storm Arthur became the first named storm of the season last week when it was upgraded from a tropical depression before bringing rain and high winds to North Carolina’s coast.

by Josh Fiallo, Tampa Bay Times, St. Petersburg, Fla. / May 21, 2020
Hurricane Matthew was a major Category 4 cyclone when it approached Florida on Oct. 6, 2016. TNS

(TNS) — Any hope of a quiet hurricane season amid the coronavirus pandemic appears to be decreasing by the day.

Scientists with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said Thursday that the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has the possibility of being extremely active and will likely be more-active-than normal — at the least.

The environmental agency released the information in a news conference on Thursday morning. Its forecast predicts there will be 13-19 named storms, with six to 10 of those storms reaching hurricane status. The forecast also predicted that three to six of those storms will become major hurricanes, which are storms that become powerful enough to be categorized as a 3, 4, or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane scale.

“It’s expected to be a busy one,” said Gery Bell, the lead forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

Hurricane season is officially from June 1 to Nov. 30. The season began early this year, however, as Tropical Storm Arthur became the first named storm of the season last week when it was upgraded from a tropical depression before bringing rain and high winds to the North Carolina coast.

NOAA’s outlook predicts a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season and only a 10% chance of a below-normal season. An average season has 12 tropical storms, six of which are hurricanes. There were 18 named storms, six hurricanes and three major ones in 2019, which confirmed early predictions of an above-normal season a year ago.

If predictions for the 2020 season are true, it will make be fifth season in a row to eclipse the average of 12 storms and six hurricanes in a season.

“This would pass the previous record of four (active seasons in a row) set in 1998 to 2001," said Bell. “Needless to say, the active hurricane era that began in 1995 continues.”

Bell said the active forecast was based on a number of factors, such as the ongoing trend of warmer waters and weaker trade winds, as well as the absence of El Niño, which causes wind shear that tears storms apart as they form in the Atlantic.

The forecast from NOAA aligns closely with another respected hurricane forecast, released annually by scientists at Colorado State University. In the university’s preliminary forecast, it predicted there would 16 named storms, with eight becoming hurricanes and four becoming major hurricanes.

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