Early forecasts for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season suggest it will be another active one, with a key group of meteorologists predicting a nearly 70% chance that a major storm will strike the United States.
The Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University on Thursday said to expect 16 named storms, half of them gaining hurricane strength. Those predictions echo a recent AccuWeather.com season forecast calling for 16-18 named storms, including seven to nine hurricanes.
And the meteorologists predicted as many as four hurricanes that form could develop into major storms with maximum sustained winds of 111 mph or greater. The Colorado State group estimates a more than two-in-three chance that one of those storms will make landfall in the continental U.S., and a 45% chance that happens on the East Coast.
In an average year, a dozen tropical cyclones in the Atlantic basin develop the characteristics and intensity that warrant a name from a list maintained by the World Meteorological Organization. Half of them typically gain hurricane force, with sustained winds of at least 74 mph, and half of those reach major storm status — Category 3, 4 or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale.
Meteorologists said they expect conditions to be favorable for a busy storm season because of the absence of the global weather pattern known as El Niño, which brings with it atmospheric winds that inhibit tropical cyclone development.
Instead, the opposite climate pattern, La Niña, could be in place by summer or fall, potentially encouraging cyclone development. And the Colorado State group said the tropical Atlantic “is warmer than normal, while the subtropical Atlantic is quite warm," likely providing more energy for storms to develop and strengthen.
Hurricane season officially begins June 1, although in some years tropical cyclones form before that. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is expected to release its hurricane season outlook in late May.