COLUMBUS (WCMH) — NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is projecting another busy Atlantic hurricane season, issuing a 60 percent probability of an above-normal year, and a 30 percent chance of fewer than average storms.
An average Atlantic hurricane seasons has 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes (Category 3 or stronger, with winds in excess of 110 mph).
Factors favoring an active season in 2020 are warm sea surface temperatures, weak vertical wind shear over the Atlantic Basin (neutral El Nino pattern) that allows storms to organize, and a stronger West African monsoon, which enhances late-season storms that originate as disturbances above the Sahara and take shape over the waters near Cape Verde in the eastern Atlantic.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through November 30, but Tropical Storm Arthur brushed the Outer Banks of North Carolina on May 16, before heading out to sea. Since 2012 every year except 2014 has produced a tropical or subtropical storm prior to June 1.
Federal government forecasters are predicting between 13 and 19 named storms forming in the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico in 2020, with six to 10 storms reaching hurricane strength (74 mph sustained wind), and three to six major hurricanes. The past four years have brought an above-average number of storms.
In 2019, there were 18 tropical storms in the Atlantic Basin, six reaching hurricane intensity. Dorian was the most devastating by far, stalling over the Bahamas for about 40 hours, after making landfall with 185 mph winds–tying the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane for the strongest landfalling hurricane in the region’s history.
The Atlantic Basin has been in a more active cycle since 1995, linked to a stronger West African monsoon and warm water cycle (Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation) overall.