Tracking the Tropics: Hurricane season is officially underway

Tracking the Tropics

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is officially underway as of Monday, June 1.

Both N.C. State and Colorado State universities are calling for an above-normal season. And NOAA forecasters are saying the same, with a 60 percent chance of an above-average season.

There is a 30 percent chance of a near-normal season and only a 10 percent chance of a below-normal season. The official season runs from June 1 to November 30.

The Atlantic has already seen two named storms so far in 2020 – and a third could be on the way this week.

Their forecast calls for 13 to 19 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes, and three to six major hurricanes (category 3 or higher). That’s compared to an average of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Tropical Storm Arthur developed in the middle of May and brought rain to parts of the Carolinas.

About a week after Arthur dissipated, Tropical Storm Bertha formed. Bertha made landfall along the coast of South Carolina on May 27.

It’s important to remember that this is a forecast for overall season activity, not a landfall forecast.

The next named storm of 2020 will be Cristobal.

Several climate factors are driving the high likelihood of a busy season. First, sea surface temperatures are running warmer than normal.

Warm water is like fuel for tropical systems — the warmer the water, the better chance of development.

Wind shear (shear means changes in wind speed and direction with height) is also weaker. Strong wind shear inhibits tropical development.

Also, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions are forecast to stay neutral or lean toward La Niña. El Niño helps to suppress hurricane activity, La Niña can lead to more development.

There are several other factors that will be monitored as well.

If this upcoming season ends with above normal activity, it will be the fifth season in a row. That would break the previous record of four seasons, from 1998 to 2001.

Whether the forecast calls for a season to be above or below normal, the takeaway is the same. It only takes one storm impacting your community for it to be a busy season.

So take the time now to make sure you and your family are prepared. As we continue to deal with the new normal in the midst of COVID-19, it’s a good idea to review your plan and make any adjustments now.

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