2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook

The 5th Season: Hurricane Season Outlook

BATON ROUGE, La. (WAFB) - For the sixth consecutive year, the Atlantic Hurricane Season got off to an early start, as Tropical Storm Arthur sideswiped the outer Banks of North Carolina and Tropical Storm Bertha made landfall in South Carolina.

Tropical Storm Arthur
Tropical Storm Arthur (Source: WAFB)
Tropical Storm Bertha formed off the coast of South Carolina on Wednesday.
Tropical Storm Bertha formed off the coast of South Carolina on Wednesday. (Source: National Hurricane Center)

Two named storms before the official start of the season: it’s only happened five times since records began and may be a sign of a busy hurricane season ahead. Then, just Monday, June 1, remnants of what was the Eastern Pacific’s Tropical Storm Amanda were tagged as Tropical Depression No. 3. The forecast, supported by the current satellite presentation, suggests that the depression could be upgraded to Tropical Storm Cristobal in less than 24 hours.

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NOAA tropical experts expect the Atlantic Hurricane Season to have 13-19 named storms, of which 6-10 will become hurricanes. Of those hurricanes, three to six are expected to become major hurricanes, with peak winds sustained over 110 mph.

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Forecasts from more than a dozen professional and academic groups add to the concern as every one of them expects above-average storm counts this season. Several groups have even applied the term ‘hyper-active’ to their outlooks.

The forecast for a busy season is based on a number of factors:

  1. Sea-surface water temperatures (SSTs) are above-average across much of the tropical and sub-tropical Atlantic basin, including most of the Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico, and SSTs are expected to remain warmer-than-average during the hurricane season. Remember, warm water is fuel for tropical systems.
  2. Atlantic wind shear may be limited this season because El Niño is expected to be in a neutral (La Nada) or possibly cool (La Niña) phase through the heart of the hurricane season. Greater wind shear tends to slow storm development and strengthening.
  3. A recent trend for above-average annual storm counts. Each of the past four seasons saw above-average storm numbers, with 18 of the past 25 seasons (since 1995) scoring more than 12 named storms.

And remember, historical statistics tell us that there is roughly a 50/50 chance for a named storm to impact some part of Louisiana in any given year, regardless of how active the season is expected to be. And as Louisiana residents have learned too many times, “It only takes one.”

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