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Colorado State University Research Team Continues to Predict Very Active 2020 Atlantic Basin Hurricane Season

Philip J. Klotzbach Ph. D. - Research Scientist - Department of Atmospheric Science

Hurricane researchers at Colorado State University (CSU) recently issued their July forecasts for the 2020 Atlantic basin hurricane season, which is expected to experience well above-normal hurricane activity.  CSU researchers increased anticipated activity to 20 named storms, up from 16 named storms projected in its April report and subsequently upped to 19 named storms in June. Of the 20 named storms for 2020, 9 are expected to reach hurricane strength and 4 are expected to be major, or Category 3+, hurricanes.

The 2020 hurricane season has already produced six named storms.  Tropical storm Fay was the earliest 6th named storm on record in the Atlantic basin.  The previous record was Franklin on July 22, 2005.  During the 2005 season, three of the first six Atlantic named storms became hurricanes, including two powerful, major hurricanes, Dennis (Category 4) and Emily (Category 5).  None of the first six named storms in 2020 reached hurricane strength.

Three of the first six named storms of 2020 have made landfall in the United States, including Tropical Storm Fay, which recently made landfall in New Jersey.  While it caused only minor damage, several individuals drowned in the storm.

CSU’s 2020 forecast is based on projections that tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures will continue to be well above-average throughout the season, which officially concludes on November 30.  Warmer waters provide more fuel for storm formation and are associated with a more unstable atmosphere and lower pressure – all of which typically enhance Atlantic hurricane activity.  Also, the odds of El Niño conditions this season are low.  El Niño is warmer than normal water in the eastern and central tropical Pacific and typically reduces Atlantic hurricane activity due to increased vertical wind shear.  Strong vertical wind shear tears apart hurricanes.  So far during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which began on June 1st, vertical wind shear has generally been below normal across most of the Caribbean and tropical Atlantic.

This year, for the first time, CSU researchers are providing probabilities of exceedance for hurricanes and Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) – an integrated metric that accounts for intensity and duration of storms.  These probabilities of exceedance provide a visualization of the uncertainty associated with seasonal hurricane predictions.

The annual CSU Atlantic basin hurricane forecast is intended to provide the best estimate of seasonal activity.  Forecasts do not specify when or where storms are going to strike.  Expert projections are based on the premise that global oceanic and atmospheric conditions that preceded comparatively active or inactive hurricane seasons in the past offer meaningful insight into similar trends for current and future seasons.

To learn more, join us for an exclusive webinar featuring Dr. Phil Klotzbach, Research Scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University and leading hurricane forecast expert, as he shares his latest forecast for the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season and hosts a Q&A session.

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Direct link to the full forecast document:


⃰“Named storm” is defined to be a hurricane, a tropical storm or sub-tropical storm.  The total forecast includes Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard and Fay, which have formed in the Atlantic as of July 15, 2020.

Funding for the 2020 Atlantic Basin Hurricane report has been provided by Ironshore Insurance, the Insurance Information Institute, Interstate Restoration and a grant from the G. Unger Vetlesen Foundation