Government meteorologists say atmospheric conditions are ripe for an above-normal season of storm activity in the Atlantic Basin and predict 13 to 19 named storms with sustained winds exceeding 39 mph. Six to 10 of those storms could reach hurricane strength of at least 74 mph, and three to six could pack sustained winds of 111 mph, achieving major hurricane status.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its annual forecast May 21.
"NOAA's analysis of current and seasonal atmospheric conditions reveals a recipe for an active Atlantic hurricane season this year," said Neil Jacobs, acting NOAA administrator.
NOAA climatologists pointed to current warm water conditions in the central and eastern Pacific Ocean and warmer water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic this spring as contributing to increased and potentially more intense hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin.
"Now is the time to get prepared," warned Gerry Bell, lead hurricane season forecaster with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center.
NOAA and the
Cooperative Institute for Meteorological Satellite Studies released a report on April 19 linking warming earth surface temperatures to increasing tropical storm intensity. The study, covering a 39-year period ending in 2017, suggested a worldwide shift toward more tropical weather systems that achieve major hurricane intensity.
While the global rate of storm severity increase was about 8% per decade, "the greatest changes are found in the North Atlantic, where the probability of major hurricane exceedance increases by 49% per decade," the report states.
NOAA forecast greater potential of hurricane-related havoc to occur well inland from where a system makes landfall, even as storms are downgraded below hurricane strength and winds subside.
"A slow-moving tropical storm can produce 9 to 15 inches of rain over a large area," said Bell.
Federal Emergency Management Agency officials are encouraging coastal residents to act now to prepare for potential hurricane evacuations because of concerns stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic.
"There's always a challenge meeting shelter needs during and after a major hurricane," said Carlos Castillo, FEMA acting deputy administrator for resilience. "Social distancing and other CDC guidance to keep you safe from COVID-19 may impact the disaster preparedness plan you had in place, including what is in your go-kit, evacuation routes, shelters and more."
In April, meteorologists from
Colorado State University's Tropical Meteorology Project predicted above-normal storm activity as well for 2020. The preseason CSU forecast of 16 named storms included eight reaching hurricane strength and four expected to achieve major hurricane status.