This year’s Atlantic hurricane season could be one of the busiest on record, according to two forecasts released this week.
The 2020 season has already set a rapid pace, with a record-setting nine named storms so far.
Historically, only two named storms form on average by early August, and a ninth named storm doesn’t usually form until Oct. 4.
“This year, we expect more, stronger, and longer-lived storms than average,” Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center, said in a statement accompanying the release of the updated forecast from the center on Aug. 6.
Forecasters use the Accumulated Cyclone Energy index, a comprehensive measure of hurricane season activity, to predict the rest of the season. Based on the index projection, combined with the above-average number of named storms, the likelihood of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season is now 85 percent, up from 60 percent in May.
The updated outlook calls for 19 to 25 named storms; named storms have winds of 39 miles per hour or greater.
Seven to 11 of those storms will become hurricanes (74 miles per hour or more) and 3 to 6 will develop into major hurricanes, which have wind speeds of at least 111 miles per hour, forecasters said.
The six-month hurricane season ends on Nov. 30.
“This is one of the most active seasonal forecasts that NOAA has produced in its 22-year history of hurricane outlooks. NOAA will continue to provide the best possible science and service to communities across the Nation for the remainder of hurricane season to ensure public readiness and safety,” Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said in a statement.
NOAA is an agency within the Department of Commerce.
Oceanic and atmospheric conditions driving the high number of serious storms include warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea and an enhanced west African monsoon.
The conditions are expected to continue for the next several months.
Comparison of recently-released @ColoradoStateU and @NOAA seasonal #hurricane forecasts for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. Both call for very active season – CSU forecast generally slightly to somewhat higher than midpoint of NOAA range. pic.twitter.com/AiM0caox5k
— Philip Klotzbach (@philklotzbach) August 6, 2020
NOAA’s forecast came one day after Colorado State University forecasters projected 24 named storms this year, including 12 hurricanes and five major hurricanes. All those projections are well above the average number that occurred between 1981 and 2010.
Besides the elevated sea surface temperatures, forecasters highlighted a vertical wind shear well below average.
Information analyzed through July “indicates that the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season will be extremely active,” forecasters wrote in their updated outlook.
“Warmer than normal water across the tropical Atlantic provides more fuel for tropical cyclones and also is associated with lower than normal pressure (as was observed in July) and increased instability—all of which favor more hurricane activity,” they added.
Coastal residents were warned to prepare for the possibility of a hurricane making landfall near them. According to the forecast, there is an above-normal probability for major hurricanes to make landfall along the continental U.S. coastline and in the Caribbean.