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 had been three tropical storms. The storms then came thick and fast with Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard and Fay being the earliest letter C, D, E and F storms respectively.
Mirroring 2005, on July 22 Gonzalo became the earliest letter G storm since Gert, followed by Hanna the following day with the earliest letter H storm since Harvey and Isaias on July 29 with the earliest letter I storm since Irene, all in 2005.
August and September are traditionally the most active months and Josephine became the earliest letter J storm since Jose quickly followed by Kyle, the earliest letter K storm since the deadly Katrina, both again in 2005.
The records continued to be broken with the earliest letter L, M, N, O, P and R storms all beating their 2005 equivalents.
Unlike 2005, so far most of the 2020 season storms have been relatively weak with the exception of category 4 Hurricanes Laura and Teddy.
With the appearance of Tropical Storm Vicky, that left just one more letter (Wilfred) to go. Like in 2005, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) have had to resort to letters from the Greek alphabet to continue the storm names.
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 anticipated a higher probability of major storm activity. This was due to their prediction of the reduced likelihood of El Niño developing and they put forward five different scenarios with percentage probabilities. Of the five scenarios, the one with the highest percentage forecasted 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 were 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.
They revised their forecast up by four named storms to 20 and one extra hurricane in their July forecast.
Their final forecast in August saw named storms rise to 24, with 12 becoming hurricanes and five becoming major hurricanes. The chances of a major hurricane making landfall on the entire coastline was 69% (average is 52%) with a 45% chance (average is 31%) on the US east coast including Florida and 44% (average 30%) on the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westwards.
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 put their worst case scenario significantly ahead of Colorado State University. They were predicting that warmer than average sea surface temperatures, reduced vertical wind shear and less likelihood of a suppression impact from the El Nino effect would result in an above normal season.
NOAA made their revised forecast in early August and they increased their figures to predict a 85% chance of there being nineteen to twenty five named storms, seven to eleven hurricanes of which three to six could be major hurricanes.
This could now make 2020 an even busier season and is the most active season NOAA has forecast in the 22 years of its existence.
AccuWeather.com announced their first forecast on March 25, 2020 and this year they were 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 by the WMO for all named storms. Names are often re-used on a six year cycle but the names of particularly damaging hurricanes such as Katrina and Sandy are withdrawn and never used again.
The letters Q, U, X, Y and Z are not used because of the shortage of suitable names. Once the letter W is reached, the WMO start to use the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet starting with Alpha.
The first time this happened was in 2005 and 2020 is proving to be equally as active. Unlike the normal names the WMO do not intend to “retire” the Greek names.
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.
Some areas of Mexico received up to 25 inches of rain whilst parts of Guatemala and El Salvador experienced 35 inches.
It was then forecast to strengthen as it tracked northwards back into the Gulf of Mexico heading towards the Louisiana coastline. It was not expected to reach hurricane strength and as it approached the coastline west of New Orleans wind speed was 50 mph.
Tropical Storm warnings were posted for much of the Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and western Florida Panhandle Gulf coastal area and flood and tornado warnings issued for the Florida Gulf region. Tropical Storm Cristobal brought heavy rain to coastal Gulf regions and the odd tornado in Central Florida.
It made landfall again near Grand Isle, west of New Orleans on June 7 with gusts of up to 65 mph but quickly weakened to a Tropical Depression.
It then tracked northwards into the upper Midwest bringing heavy rain and flooding in its path.
Tropical Depression Four formed off the coast of Massachusetts on June 22 and by the following day had developed into Tropical Storm Dolly, the fourth storm of the season. It started tracking east northeast along the Atlantic seaboard with wind speeds of 45 mph.
Over the next 48 hours it is expected to weaken back to a tropical depression as it passes St Johns, Newfoundland.
Tropical Depression Five appeared off the coast of the Carolinas, southwest of Bermuda on July 4 and tracked east northeast with wind speeds of 35 mph. By July 6 it had strengthened to become Tropical Storm Edouard, the fifth storm of the season.
It continued tracking east northeast along the Atlantic seaboard with wind speeds of up to 60 mph.
It is expected to reach northern parts of the United Kingdom in the coming days.
Tropical Storm Fay is the sixth consecutive tropical storm of the season.
It formed off the coast of North Carolina on July 9, tracking north with wind speeds of 45 mph.
By the following day it had strengthened with wind speeds of 60 mph and it came ashore just north of Atlantic City in New Jersey. By Saturday it had started to weaken to a Tropical Depression as it continued to track northwards.
Tropical Storm Gonzalo formed on the morning of July 22 about 1,200 miles east of the Southern Windward Islands. It had wind speeds of 50 mph but it was expected to strengthen to become the first hurricane of the 2020 season over the coming days.
By Friday wind speeds had increased to 60 mph as it tracked westward at 14 mph. By Saturday it was expected to become a category 1 hurricane but instead it weakened as it drifted closer to the coastline of South America.
As it continued on a westward track through the southern Caribbean heading towards Trinidad and Tobago it disintegrated.
Tropical Depression Eight formed on July 23 in the Gulf of Mexico and by the following day had become Tropical Storm Hanna tracking west northwest at 7 mph with wind speeds of 40 mph.
By Saturday it had strengthened slightly as it headed toward Padre Island, Texas, just north of the Mexican border. In fact is became the 2020 season’s first hurricane and made landfall near Port Mansfield on the Texas coast with wind speeds of 90 mph and gusts of up to 115 mph.
As it moved inland it weakened back to a Tropical Storm.
Tropical Storm Isaias initially started to develop east of Barbados and become a tropical storm as it approached the Dominican Republic late on July 29 with wind speeds of 50 mph.
Tropical storm warnings were issued for Puerto Rico, the US and British Virgin Islands, the coastal regions of the Dominican Republic, the north coast of Haiti and the Bahamas.
It started tracking northwestwards at 21 mph with wind speeds of 60 mph and was forecast to strengthen slightly over the next 24 hours as it moved towards the Bahamas.
Most forecast models showed it veering onto a more northerly track skirting the eastern seaboard of Florida though some showed it hitting the west coast of Florida.
On July 31, it became the second category 1 hurricane of the season with wind speeds of 85 mph as it’s forecast track remained on the east coast. Hurricane warnings were issued for the northwest of the Bahamas and counties on the eastern seaboard of Florida and Governor Ron DeSantis declared a State of Emergency for the affected counties. Tropical Storm warnings were issued for the Georgia and South Carolina coastline region.
As it passed over the Bahamas it lost a little of its strength and reverted to a Tropical Storm with wind speeds of 65mph.
It was forecast to strengthen slightly as it skirted the Florida coastline close to West Palm Beach on Sunday and on Monday evening as it made landfall near Ocean Isle Beach in North Carolina, it became a category 1 hurricane again with wind speeds of 85 mph and gusts of up to 105 mph. Over 670,000 residents were left without power and there was at least one fatality.
It is forecast to continue tracking north northeast through the mid-Atlantic States, across northeastern United States and into southern Canada as it gradually weakens.
Tropical Depression Eleven formed west of the Capo Verde islands on August 11 and started tracking westwards with wind speeds of 35 mph. By August 13 it had strengthened into Tropical Storm Josephine with wind speeds of 45 mph tracking west northwest.
It is expected to strengthen slightly as it approaches the Eastern Caribbean and then veer onto a more northerly course towards Bermuda.
Tropical Storm Kyle quickly formed on August 14 off the coast of Delaware about 185 miles southeast of Atlantic City, New Jersey tracking east northeast into the Atlantic with wind speeds of 40 mph.
It is expected to strengthen over the next couple of days as it moves further into the Atlantic Ocean.
Tropical Depression Thirteen formed east of Barbados on August 21 tracking west northwest and quickly became Tropical Storm Laura.
It was originally forecast to cross the upper Florida Keys but the later forecasts had it tracking slightly further west and south, missing making landfall in the Keys though the effects would still be felt.
It passed between Antiqua and Monserrat in the Leeward Islands and tracked west northwest at 18 mph with wind speeds of 45 mph and was forecast to track just south of Puerto Rico before crossing the Dominican Republic and Haiti.
Due to further westward drift it cleared the extreme southern point of the Florida Keys before strengthening into a category 1 hurricane Tuesday and by Wednesday had further strengthened into a category 2 hurricane with wind speeds of 105 mph.
It continued to track west northwest and was moving towards the coastline at 17 mph when it further strengthened to become the first major category 3 hurricane of the 2020 season with wind speeds of 135 mph.
Just before hitting the coastline of western Louisiana near Cameron close to the Texas Louisiana border early on Thursday morning it had become a category 4 hurricane with wind speeds of 150 mph and gusts of up to 185 mph. This makes it one of the strongest storms ever to hit the United States.
Hurricane and Storm Surge warnings were issued for parts of Texas to the mouth of the Mississippi River and the National Hurricane Center described the storm as “unsurvivable”. Over 350,000 homes lost power.
Storm surges in excess of 20 feet were anticipated with rainfall of up to 12 inches. Around 600,000 people evacuated the coastal region in advance of the strike. Widespread damage was caused by the strong winds and flooding particularly in the Lake Charles area leaving at least four dead in Louisiana and over 20 in the Caribbean.
As Laura started to move inland it dropped to a category 3 with wind speeds of 120 mph before quickly weakening to a tropical depression.
It was originally thought that both storm Laura and Marco could end up as hurricanes in the Gulf of Mexico at the same time but Marco weakened back to a tropical storm before Laura became a hurricane.
The last time that two storms appeared in the Gulf as the same time was in 2002 when Tropical Storm Edouard made landfall on the Florida Gulf Coast and Tropical Storm Fay came ashore in Texas.
Tropical Depression Fourteen formed just off the coast of Nicaragua and Honduras on August 21 tracking west northwest and quickly strengthened to become the thirteenth tropical storm of the season.
Marco skirted the Honduran coastline before veering onto a more northerly track. It tracked north northwest at 13 mph with wind speeds of 40 mph and strengthened as it approached Cancun in the Yucatan Peninsula. In the end it veered slightly to the east and passed between Cancun and Cuba and into the Gulf of Mexico.
On August 23 it briefly became a category 1 hurricane with wind speeds of 75 mph before weakening slightly as it approached the Louisiana coastline. Before reaching the coast it weakened further into a Tropical Depression before breaking up.
Tropical storm watches were issued for the eastern Texas, Louisiana and western Alabama coastlines. Parts of the Louisiana coastline around New Orleans are under hurricane watch.
Tropical Storm Nana quickly developed on September 1, south of the island of Jamaica heading westwards at 16 mph with wind speeds of 50 mph.
It was forecast to continue on a westerly track gradually increasing to a category 1 hurricane before making landfall in Belize.
On September 3 it came ashore close to All Pines Village in Belize as a category 1 hurricane with wind speeds of 75 mph.
Tropical Depression #15 formed on August 31 off the Carolinas tracking north easterly at 12 mph. By the following day it had strengthened into Tropical Storm Omar tracking east northeast with wind speeds of 40 mph.
It is expected to weaken as it heads further into the Atlantic Ocean.
Tropical Depression #17 formed on September 7 west of the Cabo Verde Islands and quickly became Tropical Storm Paulette tracking west northwest at 3 mph with wind speeds of 45 mph.
Over the next 48 hours it was expected to strengthen with wind speeds of 70 mph but then start to weaken again as it moved onto a more westerly track.
By September 12, it had strengthened with wind speeds of 70 mph as it tracked northwest at 16 mph. It was then forecast to become a category 2 hurricane as it headed towards Bermuda and on September 13 it attained category 1 hurricane status with wind speeds of 90 mph.
Bermuda was placed under a hurricane warning at Paulette struck as a category 2 storm. It then turned onto a north easterly heading and by September 16 was back to a category 1 hurricane. Over the next couple of days it is expected to further weaken and turn again onto a southerly path.
Hot on the heels of Tropical Depression #17, Tropical Depression #18 formed east of the Cabo Verde Islands on September 7 and within a few hours it had become Tropical Storm Rene with wind speeds of 40 mph.
Like Tropical Storm Paulette, it is tracking west northwest but on a more northerly track. It passed over the Cabo Verde Islands as it veered onto a westerly track.
It was originally forecast to become a category 1 hurricane by Thursday as it turned onto a more northerly heading but it briefly weakened back to a Tropical Depression by September 9 before strengthening again.
By September 12 it was still a Tropical Storm with winds of 40 mph. By September 13 it had weakened again to a Tropical Depression before making a 90 degree turn onto a more westerly track.
Tropical Depression #19 formed just off the coast of South Florida on September 11 and started tracking west northwest at 8 mph.
It came ashore in Key Biscayne and was expected to remain a depression as it moved westwards towards the Gulf of Mexico. As it crossed into the Gulf, it strengthened and became Tropical Storm Sally.
It then veered onto a west northwesterly track with wind speeds of 50 mph.
It was forecast to become a category 1 hurricane as it approached the Louisiana coastline close to New Orleans and much of the Louisiana coastal region was placed under a hurricane warning.
Before reaching New Orleans it suddenly veered northwards and strengthened into a category 2 hurricane with wind speeds of 105 mph heading for the Alabama/Florida State line near Gulf State Park close to Pensacola.
Because it was only travelling at 3 mph it brought up to 30 inches of rain and catastrophic flooding to the region.
Torrential rainfall could reach as far as South Carolina as Hurricane Sally moves over Alabama, Florida and Georgia.
At least seven deaths can be attributed to Hurricane Sally and over 500,000 homes were without power at the height of the storm. Initial damage estimates were $5 billion.
The 2020 season hotted up as Tropical Depression #20 formed on September 12 southwest of the Cabo Verde Islands in the same region as Paulette and Rene. It started tracking west northwest at 9 mph with wind speeds of 35 mph.
It quickly became Tropical Storm Teddy (the fourth in less than a week) and was expected to further strengthen into a major category 3 hurricane as it followed roughly the path of Paulette.
By September 16 it was around 800 miles from the Lesser Antilles tracking northwest at 10 mph with wind speeds of 104 mph and expected to strengthen further. Two people were drowned in rip currents.
On September 17, it became a category 3 major hurricane, the second of the season with wind speeds of 120 mph tracking north west.
It briefly became a category 4 hurricane on September 19 before reverting back to a category 3. By September 20, it was still a category 3 hurricane travelling at 13 mph on a north westerly track with wind speeds of 115 mph.
It is expected to veer onto a northerly track and pass just east of Bermuda as a category 2 hurricane. Tropical storm warnings have been issued for the island of Bermuda.
Like several earlier storms this month, Tropical Depression #21 formed on September 14 northwest of the Cabo Verde Islands. It started moving slowly northwards at 6 mph with wind speeds of 35 mph.
It was not expected to strengthen much over the next few days as it veered onto a westerly track and on September 14 it became the twentieth storm of the season as Tropical Storm Vicky.
Over the next 48 hours it was expected to weaken.
Vicky is only the second time the V letter has been reached, the first being in the record breaking 2005 season.
Tropical Storm Wilfred formed on September 18 south west of the Cabo Verde Islands and started moving west northwest at 16 mph with wind speeds of 40 mph.
By September 20 it is expected to weaken to a Tropical Depression.
Subtropical Storm Alpha formed off the coast of Portugal on September 18 moving north east at 17 mph with wind speeds of 50 mph. It quickly came ashore in Portugal just north of Lisbon and continued to track across north eastern Spain as it quickly weakened. There was at least one recorded death.
This is furthest easterly storm on record and the first time a named tropical storm has hit the Portuguese coastline.
Tropical Depression #22 formed on September 18 in the southwest Gulf of Mexico and later that day became Tropical Storm Beta tracking north northeast at 9mph with wind speeds of 40 mph.
By September 20, it had turned onto a west northwesterly track with wind speeds of 60 mph and is expected to make landfall as a Tropical Storm on the Texas coastline near Port O’Connor.
Tropical Depression #25 formed off the coast of Belize on October 2 tracking northwest at 9 mph with wind speeds of 35 mph.
By October 3 it had strengthened into Tropical Storm Gamma with wind speeds of 40 mph as it approached the Yucatan Peninsula near San Miguel de Cozumel.
It was forecast to further strengthen as it entered the Gulf and veers onto a westerly track but initially it stalled off the northern coastline. It is expected to drift southwesterly for a day or two before heading north.
Tropical Depression #26 formed south of Jamaica on October 5 heading west northwest at 9 mph with wind speeds of 35 mph. It quickly became the 25th storm of the 2020 season as Tropical Storm Delta.
As it passed south of the Cayman Islands it rapidly strengthened into a category 4 hurricane.
It tracked west northwest at 17 mph with wind speeds of 145 mph and made landfall at 110 mph near Puerto Morelos in the northern part of the Yucatan Peninsula between Cancun and San Miguel de Cozumel.
It briefly weakened but by October 9 it had strengthened back to a category 3 major hurricane as it approached the Louisiana coastline with wind speeds of 120 mph.
Hurricane warnings have been issued for much of the Louisiana coastline from Sabine Pass near the Louisiana-Texas border in the west to Morgan City, Louisiana in the east.
Tropical Depression #27 formed in mid Atlantic on October 19. It started tracking northwards with wind speeds of 35 mph and quickly became Tropical Storm Epsilon, the 26th storm of the season.
It is currently forecast to track northwest as wind speeds increase and it could become a category 1 hurricane as it passes to the east of Bermuda.