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article imageResearchers forecast an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season

By Karen Graham     Apr 6, 2020 in Science
Sixteen named storms, including eight hurricanes, are forecast for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, according to early predictions released Thursday by experts at Colorado State University.
Colorado State University (CSU) issued its 37th annual Atlantic hurricane season forecast — and the numbers appear significantly above normal. Most notable - there are several signals in the oceans and atmosphere that point toward a busy summer and fall for the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and the Gulf of Mexico.
Phil Klotzbach leads the program at Colorado State University. The best estimate for Atlantic hurricanes this year is eight (the average is 6.4), with a total of 16 named storms (12.1). "The probability of US major hurricane landfall is estimated to be about 130 percent of the long-period average," Klotzbach's report states.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, and you might ask how accurate an early forecast might be - and to be truthful, predicting overall hurricane activity two months before the Atlantic hurricane season begins is not the most robust of sciences, according to ArsTechnica.
Residents of the US territory of Puerto Rico have struggled to find food  water and fuel after Hurri...
Residents of the US territory of Puerto Rico have struggled to find food, water and fuel after Hurricane Maria devastated the Caribbean island
There is always the potential for a serious mistake on the predictions, and Klotzbach has made a couple of wrong guesses. In 2017, he predicted four hurricanes during what was expected to be a quiet year, with just two of them becoming powerful "major" hurricanes.
The 2017 hurricane season ended up being the costliest tropical season on record in the Atlantic, with the formation of 10 hurricanes and six major hurricanes, including the destructive storms Harvey, Irma, and Maria.
Basically, the forecasts do not precisely predict where the storms might strike, and the probability of landfall for any single location is low. "Coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them," researchers Philip Klotzbach, Michael M. Bell, and Jhordanne Jones [url= t=_blank]wrote in the report.
Confidence in this year's forecast
Several parameters are used to construct a seasonal tropical cyclone forecast. CSU uses sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic, the presence or lack thereof of El Niño in the tropical Pacific Ocean and the phase of a natural oscillation in the Atlantic Basin called the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation. This data is all weighed against data from past hurricane seasons.
: Late March 2020 SST anomaly pattern across the Atlantic Ocean.
: Late March 2020 SST anomaly pattern across the Atlantic Ocean.
Colorado State University
As the report notes, there is no evidence of an El Nino forming in the tropical Pacific, which could decrease overall activity in the Atlantic, while the tropical Atlantic is warmer than normal, especially the Gulf of Mexico. Currently, the North Atlantic basin is characterized by cold sea surface temperatures (SSTs) in the far North Atlantic, and warm SSTs off of the East Coast and across the subtropical Atlantic.
Interestingly, the colder SSTs in the far North Atlantic are characteristic of the negative phase of the Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation (AMO); however, the unusual warmth across most of the tropical Atlantic is not characteristic of a typical negative AMO phase.
This marks the 37th year that the university's team has issued an Atlantic seasonal hurricane forecast. The official forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOOA) will release in May. The hurricane research team from Colorado State will also release updated forecasts on June 4, July 7, and August 6.
More about Atlantic hurricane season, Colorado state university, hurricane season forecast, above normal, 16 named tropical systems
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