History-Making Hurricane Season Intensifies in the Atlantic
Forecasters Now Predicting Possibility of Extreme Activity throughout Remaining Months
In their recently updated forecasts, storm experts from both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and Colorado State University (CSU) are now anticipating what could be an “extremely active” 2020 hurricane season. NOAA’s updated outlook is calling for 19-25 named storms (winds of 39 mph or greater), of which seven to 11 will become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or greater), including three to six major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or greater). CSU’s forecast is calling for 24 named storms for the 2020 season, 12 hurricanes with five as major hurricanes.
According to a news release issued by NOAA, historically, only two named storms form on average by early August, and the ninth named storm typically does not form until October 4. An average season produces 12 named storms, including six hurricanes of which three become major hurricanes (Category 3,4,or 5).
“This year, we expect more, stronger, and longer-lived storms than average, and our predicted ACE range extends well above NOAA’s threshold for an extremely active season,” said Gerry Bell, Ph.D., lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
A comprehensive measure of the overall hurricane season activity, ACE is the Accumulated Cyclone Energy index which measures the combined intensity and duration of all named storms during the season. Based on the ACE projection, combined with the above-average numbers of named storms and hurricanes, the likelihood of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season has increased to 85%, with only a 10% chance of a near-normal season and a 5% chance of a below-normal season.
Understanding the August Winds of Change
Both NOAA and CSU reference warmer than average water temperatures in the Atlantic, less vertical wind shear than usual, weak tropical Atlantic trade winds, and an active West African monsoon season for the increase in activity.
With its warmth, dry air, and strong winds that can have significant moderating impacts on tropical cyclone formation and intensification, the Saharan air layer had provided some storm protection earlier in the summer. The August increase in African easterly waves subdues the effects of the Saharan air layer.
NOAA and CSU also point to La Niña that can further weaken the wind shear over the Atlantic Basin, allowing storms to develop and intensify.
The NOAA news release also reminds readers that its hurricane season outlook is for overall seasonal activity and is not a landfall forecast. Landfalls are largely determined by short-term weather patterns, which are only predictable within about a week of a storm potentially reaching a coastline. NOAA’s National Hurricane Center provides tropical weather outlooks out to five days in advance, provides track and intensity forecasts for individual storms, and issues watches and warnings for specific tropical storms, hurricanes and the associated storm surge.
"NOAA has the most highly trained and dedicated forecasters that serve to protect American lives and property. With improved forecast skill, new storm surge products, and new observations, such as GPS Radio Occultation, we are better positioned than ever before to keep Americans out of harm's way,” said Neil Jacobs, Ph.D., acting NOAA administrator. "It is now more important than ever to stay informed with our forecasts, have a preparedness plan, and heed guidance from local emergency management officials."
CSU hurricane experts will issue two-week forecasts for Atlantic TC activity during the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season from August-October.
Unparalleled Season Requires Unparalleled Planning
“This is one of the most active seasonal forecasts that NOAA has produced in its 22-year history of hurricane outlooks. NOAA will continue to provide the best possible science and service to communities across the Nation for the remainder of hurricane season to ensure public readiness and safety,” said U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross in the NOAA release. “We encourage all Americans to do their part by getting prepared, remaining vigilant, and being ready to take action when necessary,” he added.
Hurricane information and preparedness tips can be found at https://www.ready.gov/hurricanes. For the latest on tropical storm and hurricane activity in the Atlantic, visit the National Hurricane Center at https://www.nhc.noaa.gov.
Also watch for ongoing storm information and updates throughout the 2020 hurricane season in upcoming issues of the Commercial Claims Journal.
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