Hurricane researchers at Colorado State University (CSU) are predicting an above-average Atlantic hurricane season for 2020. The hurricane season officially runs from June 1 to November 30. Researchers cited that the primary factors influencing their initial annual outlook, released on April 2nd, are the likely absence of El Niño during the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season and that tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures are currently warmer than normal and are projected to remain warmer than normal for the peak of the season.
The CSU Tropical Meteorology Project team is predicting 16 named storms. Of those, researchers anticipate that eight will become hurricanes and four will reach major hurricane strength. Major hurricanes are storms at Category 3-4-5 intensity on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale, with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater. Of note, the Saffir-Simpson scale only categorizes the hurricane wind threat and does not take into consideration the totality of storm impacts, including storm surge and rainfall. The team forecasts that hurricane activity will be about 140% of the average season, as compared with 2019 hurricane activity, which was about 120% of the average season.
The eastern and central tropical Pacific Ocean currently has slightly warmer than normal sea surface temperature conditions, but CSU researchers predict that waters are likely to cool relative to long-term averages over the next several months. Consequently, they anticipate low odds for El Niño during the height of the 2020 season. El Niño tends to disrupt hurricane formation through generation of strong westerly winds at upper levels (at 30,000 feet) in the atmosphere that tear apart hurricanes as they are trying to develop in the Caribbean and the tropical Atlantic. The tropical waters of the Atlantic currently are warmer than normal, and these warmer than normal water temperatures are anticipated to persist for the next several months. Hurricanes live off of warm ocean water, so more warm water fuels hurricane formation and intensification.
This is the 37th year that the research team has issued an Atlantic basin seasonal hurricane forecast. The CSU forecast is based on statistical information and climate models built on nearly 40 years of historical hurricane season analysis of various factors, such as Atlantic sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures, vertical wind shear and El Niño conditions, among others. The CSU report also includes a website that provides the probability of named storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes making landfall in the U.S., as well as the Caribbean and Central America through its Landfall Probability website.
The annual CSU Atlantic basin hurricane forecast is intended to provide a best estimate of activity during the upcoming season. These forecasts do not specify when or where storms are going to strike.
Readers are cautioned to take the same precautions for every hurricane season, since it only takes one hurricane landfall near you to make it an active season. Refer to FEMA’s hurricane preparedness website for guidance.
The CSU team will issue 2020 seasonal updates on June 4, July 7 and August 6.
Read CSU’S full forecast below:
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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.