Wednesday, June 19, 2024

NOAA predicts remaining Atlantic hurricane season could be ‘busiest on record’

Debris landed in various spots along the west end of Oak Island after Hurricane Isaias. (Port City Daily photo/Johanna F. Still)

ATLANTIC COAST — The World Meteorological Organization could end up making its way through most of the alphabet during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, with as many as twenty-five storms and six major hurricanes predicted.

Days after the Atlantic hurricane season’s ninth named storm made landfall at Ocean Isle, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasters said conditions are “primed to fuel storm development in the Atlantic, leading to what could be an ‘extremely active’ season.”

The agency’s forecast analysis was based on warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical region of the Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, reduced vertical wind shear, weaker-than-normal tropical Atlantic trade winds, and an “enhanced West African monsoon.”

“These conditions are expected to continue for the next several months,” according to the NOAA.

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When Hurricane Isaias made landfall before midnight on August 3, it marked the fifth named storm to hit the continental U.S. this year — and the earliest ever recorded for nine tropical cyclones to develop in the Atlantic during hurricane season (June to November). All tropical cyclones receive names from the World Meteorological Organization and include both tropical storms (those with winds of 39 mph or greater) and hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or greater).

“The last time that five named storms had hit this soon was in August 1916,” according to Popular Science. “We’ve now beaten that record by about two weeks.”

The NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, released an update to the Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook on Thursday, which was originally released in May.

“This is one of the most active seasonal forecasts that NOAA has produced in its 22-year history of hurricane outlooks,” U.S. Secretary of Commerce Wilbur Ross said.

The updated 2020 Atlantic hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms. (Courtesy NOAA)

The NOAA said the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season has “been off to a rapid pace with a record-setting nine named storms so far and has the potential to be one of the busiest on record.”

The agency’s updated predictions call for 19 to 25 total named storms, 7 to 11 hurricanes (those with winds 74 mph or greater) and 3 to 6 of those major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or greater). 

Based on a comprehensive measure of overall hurricane season activity called the Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) index, the agency said the probability of an “above-normal Atlantic hurricane season” has increased to 85%. 

Gerry Bell, the lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said he expected stronger and longer-lived storms — and more of them — than average, and the predicted ACE range extended “well above NOAA’s threshold for an extremely active season.”

The prime conditions for an active hurricane season are largely attributed to the ongoing warm phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation, a climate cycle that affects North Atlantic Ocean surface temperatures. The NOAA said the cycle had reappeared in 1995 and “has been favoring more active hurricane seasons since that time.” 

“Another contributing climate factor this year is the possibility of La Nina developing in the months ahead. Indicative of cooler-than-average sea surface temperatures in the equatorial regions of the eastern Pacific Ocean, La Nina can further weaken the wind shear over the Atlantic Basin, allowing storms to develop and intensify,” according to the NOAA.

The World Meteorological Organization has chosen 21 names for possible Atlantic tropical cyclones that may occur this season. Available names on the list include Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky, and Wilfred.

The outlook does not include landfall forecasts, which the NOAA said is mainly determined by short-term weather patterns that are only predicable within about a week of a storm reaching a coastline. 

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