The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its 2020 Atlantic hurricane season forecast on Thursday and is forecasting an above-normal season with the possibility of that season being extremely active.
Gerry Bell, lead hurricane season forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said there could be 13 to 19 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes and three to six major hurricanes during the Atlantic hurricane season that begins June 1.
NOAA reports multiple climate factors indicate above-normal activity is most likely, which could make this one of the most trying hurricane seasons the United States will experience since the country is in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic.
The 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.
Meteorologists have been monitoring both El Niño and La Niña and early indications reveal that El Niño will remain neutral while La Niña could heat up. An El Niño pushes storms away. A La Niña attracts storms.
“Those are really dominant signals and they are controlling the strength of the hurricane season,” Bell said in a telephone conference with the media.
“We are seeing everything that would indicate an above average season,” said Bell.
“How more active could it (the season) be if La Niña develops. If La Niña develops the activity could certainly be near the upper end of our prediction ranges,” he said.
The peak months of the Atlantic hurricane season are August, September and October.
“If 2020 becomes an above normal season, it will make a record of five consecutive above normal Atlantic hurricane seasons and this would surpass the previous record of four set during 1998 to 2001,” Bell said.
An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
The following are the wind speeds of the forecasted storms:
- Storms – Winds of 39 mph or higher
- Hurricanes – Winds 74 mph or higher
- Major hurricanes – Winds 111 mph or higher
Carlos Castillo, acting deputy administrator for resilience at FEMA, said residents need to remember to follow social distancing and other guidelines by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention to keep them safe from COVID-19 during hurricane season. Residents planning to evacuate the area, if orders are given, should first try to reach out to family or friends outside the evacuation zone before heading out to a designated shelter place.
“Evacuation centers, you have to keep in mind are meant to keep you safe, but not necessarily comfortable,” said Castillo. “They will implement social distancing and other measures in according to other CDC guidelines.”
In April, Dr. Philip Klotzbach, of Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University, said to expect 16 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes during the Atlantic hurricane season.
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season got off to an early start this season when Tropical Storm Arthur developed near Florida over the weekend.
Twenty-one names have been chosen for the storms. The next named storm will be Bertha.
Hurricane season starts June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.