This year could turn out to be the fifth consecutive above-normal season, said Gerry Bell, lead hurricane season forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
“The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be a busy one and there are a number of factors driving this season,” he said. Those factors include ongoing conditions that began in 1995 in which warmer ocean temperatures and weaker winds create conditions conducive to hurricane activity.
Warmer sea surface temperatures in the Tropical Atlantic and Caribbean Sea coupled with the absence of El Nino which tends to break up hurricanes before they can form encourages moist air and general instability, all of which helps to fuel hurricane development and intensity.
Hurricane season for the Atlantic basin, which includes the Atlantic Ocean, the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, runs from June 1 through Nov. 30. For the past six years, the first named tropical storms have come before the season began.
Tropical Storm Arthur became the first named storm of 2020. Tropical storms are named when they display a rotating circular pattern with wind speeds of 39 mph. Storms become hurricanes when they reach wind speeds of 74 mph.
Arthur began brewing on the Southeast coast on May 16, but after moving toward North Carolina days later, it lost power and was designated a post-tropical storm.
Carlos Castillo, acting deputy administrator for resilience at Federal Emergency Management Agency, said early planning is critical, particularly during an above-normal hurricane season that is taking place during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The agency has been planning appropriately, he said.
“This year will not be the first time FEMA has managed more than one large disaster at one time,” Castillo said, referring to multiple concurrent natural disasters in 2018.
This season, NOAA is making several upgrades to its forecasting system with products and tools to help improve forecasting and critical services.