After several quiet years, weather forecasters think we might be entering a more active hurricane season. Early forecasts put 2020 as another above average season.
Prior to 2016, Florida had gone a record ten years without a hurricane making landfall, that is until Hurricane Hermine hit Apalachee Bay in the Panhandle.
Though the official hurricane season runs from June to November, it is not uncommon for storms to form before the start of the season, in April/May, or well beyond the end of the season right through to the following January.
In 2012 both Alberto and Beryl formed in May and in 2015 Ana also formed in May. In 2016 Alex formed in January and Bonnie in May. In 2017, Arlene formed in April and in 2018, another storm called Alberto formed in late May. 2019 was no different with Andrea also forming in May.
Already in 2020 by June 2, just two days into the official 2020 Hurricane Season there have been three topical storms.
August and September are traditionally the most active months.
Hurricane predictions for 2020
Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University
The team led by Philip J. Klotzbach from the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University (CSU) normally make their first predictions in April/May time but like in 2019 for the 2020 hurricane season they published a very early extended range forecast.
They anticipate a higher probability of major storm activity. This is due to their prediction of the reduced likelihood of El Niño developing and they have put forward five different scenarios with percentage probabilities. Of the five scenarios, the one with the highest percentage forecasts fourteen to seventeen named storms, nine to eleven hurricanes of which four to five could be major hurricanes.
Their first quantitive forecast was on April 2 with sixteen named storms, eight hurricanes with four becoming major hurricanes. They are forecasting an above average season with a 69% chance of a hurricane making landfall on the entire United States coastline with a 45% chance of landfall on the southeast coast including Florida and 30% on the Gulf coast from the Florida Panhandle westwards.
Further forecasts are expected on June 4, July 7 and August 6.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) usually put out their first predictions towards the end of May each year with a revised forecast in August.
This year in May they predicted a 60% chance of an above normal season with an estimated thirteen to nineteen named storms, six to ten hurricanes of which three to six could be major hurricanes.
This again puts their worst case scenario significantly ahead of Colorado State University. They are predicting that warmer than average sea surface temperatures, reduced vertical wind shear and less likelihood of a suppression impact from the El Nino effect will result in an above normal season.
AccuWeather.com announced their first forecast on March 25, 2020 and this year they are predicting fourteen to eighteen named storms with seven to nine hurricanes of which two to four could become major hurricanes. This is well above average.
On May 7, 2020 they revised their forecast upwards with fourteen to twenty tropical storms, seven to eleven hurricanes and four to six major hurricanes.
They also predicted two to four named storms could make landfall in the USA and this was increased to four to six in their May update.
The Weather Company
The Weather Company is forecasting a similar season with eighteen named storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes.
Tropical Storm Risk
Like CSU, Tropical Storm Risk made their first extended range forecast on December 19, 2019 with fifteen named storms, seven hurricanes and four major hurricanes.
On April 7, 2020 they updated their forecast predicting sixteen named storms, eight hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
Earth Networks who power WeatherBug are predicting eight to twelve named storms including three to six hurricanes of which one to two could be major.
Both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University team have often over estimated named storms and hurricanes in recent years but remember these are just predictions.
It only takes one storm to do untold damage, just remember Andrew in 1992 or Katrina and Sandy more recently. 2017 ended up being far worse than anybody predicted.
In 1992 there were only seven named storms making it a “quiet” year but the first storm of the season, the category 5 Hurricane Andrew, hit Homestead near Miami before crossing over into the Gulf and onto Louisiana. Damage was estimated at $26 billion with around 65 people killed in total.
Storm names for 2020
Each year a set of names alternating between boys and girls is chosen for all named storms. Names are often re-used but the names of particularly damaging hurricanes such as Katrina and Sandy are withdrawn and never used again.
For the sixth year in a row, the first named storm of the season has occurred before the official start of the season on June 1st.
Tropical Storm Arthur formed off the Florida Atlantic coastline late on May 16 with wind speeds of 40mph bringing heavy rain to South Florida. It is expected to strengthen but remain offshore as it tracks north-northeast.
A tropical storm watch has been issued for much of the Outer Banks of North Carolina.
Tropical Storm Bertha is the second storm to form before the start of the official season. Bertha formed off the South Carolina coastline and quickly came ashore north of Charleston bringing 2 to 4 inches of rain to some areas.
The storm is tracking northwestwards with wind speeds of 45 mph and is expected to dissipate quickly.
Tropical Depression Three formed in the Southern Gulf of Mexico on June 1 and by the following day had developed into Tropical Storm Cristobal. It started tracking south towards the Mexican coastline west of the Yucatan Peninsula with wind speeds of 60 mph.
It made landfall near Atasta in Mexico with wind speeds of 70 mph on June 3 before weakening to a Tropical Depression and making a 180 degree turn back into the Gulf.
It is then forecast to strengthen as it tracks northwards back into the Gulf of Mexico heading towards the Louisiana coastline. It is not expected to reach hurricane strength at this time.