Hurricane Season Forecast Updated to ‘Extremely Active’

Ernie Neffhurricane

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Atmospheric and oceanic conditions are primed to fuel storm development in the Atlantic, leading to what could be an “extremely active” season. So say forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) in its August update to the Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook, initially issued in May.

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is off to a rapid pace with a record-setting nine named storms so far and has the potential to be one of the busiest on record. 

“This is one of the most active seasonal forecasts that NOAA has produced in its 22-year history of hurricane outlooks,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross. NOAA is part of the U.S. Department of Commerce.  

The updated outlook calls for 19 to 25 named storms (winds of 39 mph or greater), of which seven to 11 will become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or greater), including three to six major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or greater). This update covers the entire six-month hurricane season, which ends Nov. 30 and includes the nine named storms to date. 

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“This year, we expect more, stronger, and longer-lived storms than average,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. 

Current oceanic and atmospheric conditions that make an “extremely active” hurricane season possible are warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, reduced vertical wind shear, weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds and an enhanced west African monsoon. These conditions are expected to continue for the next several months. A main climate factor behind these conditions is the ongoing warm phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation, which reappeared in 1995 and has been favoring more active hurricane seasons since that time. 

Another contributing climate factor this year is the possibility of La Niña developing in the months ahead. Indicative of cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the equatorial regions of the eastern Pacific Ocean, La Niña can further weaken the wind shear over the Atlantic Basin, allowing storms to develop and intensify. 

NOAA’s hurricane season outlook is for overall seasonal activity and is not a landfall forecast. Landfalls are largely determined by short-term weather patterns, which are only predictable within about a week of a storm potentially reaching a coastline.

Hurricane Hanna severely damaged the Texas citrus crop in July; learn more here.

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

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