Early forecast calls for above-average hurricane season

Initial forecasting for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season predicts a slightly above-average year, according to analysis released Thursday by Colorado State University’s Tropical Meteorology Project.

The forecast calls for 16 named storms, including eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes. The prediction would mean two fewer named storms than the 2019 season, but two more hurricanes and one additional major hurricane.

An average hurricane season produces around 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

The CSU forecast also predicts 80 named storm days, up from the average of 59.4 days, during the 2020 season, which runs 1 June to 30 Nov. It places the probability of landfall of a major hurricane in the US at about 130% of the long-term average, based on hurricane season activity from 1981-2010.

A cool, neutral El Niño-Southern Oscillation or weak La Niña is forecast for the summer and fall.

La Niña conditions tend to favour tropical storm formation in the Atlantic due to low wind shear and warmer sea-surface temperatures.

“The tropical Atlantic is warmer than normal, while the subtropical Atlantic is quite warm, and the far North Atlantic is anomalously cool,” the CSU forecast reads.

While a cold far North Atlantic is typically associated with a cold tropical Atlantic, forecasters say that has not occurred.

The forecast does come with a caveat, however.

“Everyone should realize that it is impossible to precisely predict this season’s hurricane activity in early April,” the CSU forecast reads.

“We issue these forecasts to satisfy the curiosity of the general public and to bring attention to the hurricane problem. There is a general interest in knowing what the odds are for an active or inactive season.

“One must remember that our forecasts are based on the premise that those global oceanic and atmospheric conditions which preceded comparatively active or inactive hurricane seasons in the past provide meaningful information about similar trends in future seasons.”

Cayman should prepare

Despite the eventful year so far that Cayman has already experienced, the Cayman Islands National Weather Service encouraged residents to remain vigilant about the coming season.

“It has already been quite a year for the Cayman Islands in terms of natural disasters, with the 7.7 magnitude earthquake that impacted the Cayman Islands on January 28th 2020, the early March dump fire and the ongoing world pandemic COVID-19,” the Cayman Islands Weather Service wrote.

“And now, with everything going on and what we have been through this year, we must now turn our attention to the hurricane season. Please, be reminded that regardless of what has happened, it does not decrease the possibility of the Cayman Islands being impacted by hurricanes.”

While the first half of hurricane season is typically slow, the National Weather Service explained, the public should not disregard forecasts. The peak of hurricane season is considered to be around 11 Sept.

“The second half of the season tends to produce very powerful hurricanes, some of which form in the western Caribbean,” the National Weather Service wrote.

“The three problems with these late-season storms forming in the western Caribbean include possible short warning times, erratic paths and potential of rapid intensification … As a result, residents should always be prepared for the impact of a major storm, especially in the latter part of the season.”

The first US National Hurricane Center forecast for the season will be released in May.

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