Colorado State University releases its 2020 hurricane season forecast. If it holds true, it will be the fifth straight year of above-average activity.
Florida may be facing a fifth consecutive active hurricane season if a leading forecast released Thursday morning holds true.
Colorado State University’s early-season prediction is calling for 16 named storms, eight hurricanes and three major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher.
A normal season, which runs between June 1 and Nov. 30, has 12 named storms, including six hurricanes and four major hurricanes.
Seasonal #hurricane forecast from @ColoradoStateU calls for above-average season: 16 named storms, 8 hurricanes & 4 major (Cat 3+) hurricanes. Reasons for above-average forecast include anticipated lack of #ElNino and warmer than normal tropical Atlantic.https://t.co/jZGKiBmkic pic.twitter.com/sX5C21JxvX— Philip Klotzbach (@philklotzbach) April 2, 2020
Phil Klotzbach, lead writer of the forecast, said there was discussion about not releasing the report this year considering the coronavirus crisis.
"We toyed with not doing one, or making it very, very quiet, but it’s still important knowing hurricane season is coming," Klotzbach said. "Hopefully by the time the season ramps up, this pandemic will be a lot less of an issue."
AccuWeather, which released its forecast last month, also is expecting an above average season.
AccuWeather lead hurricane forecaster Dan Kottlowski said much of his forecast was also based on the lack of an El Niño and the possibility a La Niña could form in the early fall.
The tropical and subtropical Atlantic generally is warmer than normal. The region with above-normal SSTs in Atlantic correlates fairly well with typical March SST pattern associated with above-normal #hurricane seasons. Exception is current cold anomaly in far North Atlantic. pic.twitter.com/2rzfTN8nKK— Philip Klotzbach (@philklotzbach) April 2, 2020
El Niño acts to crush hurricanes while La Niña is more accommodating to their formation.
"If we go into a solid La Niña, that’s where we get into some problems," Kottlowski said.
If the forecasts for a more active season hold true, it will be the fifth consecutive above-normal year for hurricanes.
The last strong El Niño was from 2015 into early 2016. Since then, an overactive Atlantic has spawned six Category 5 cyclones: Matthew (2016), Irma and Maria (2017), Michael (2018), and Dorian and Lorenzo (2019).
At least 20 research groups, private companies and universities churn out annual hurricane forecasts, including the University of Arizona, The Weather Company and Pennsylvania State University’s Earth System Science Center.
One of the reasons for the above-average seasonal #hurricane forecast from CSU is due to the likely lack of #ElNino this summer/fall. El Nino generally increases vertical wind shear in the Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes. pic.twitter.com/CkC93ukSCm— Philip Klotzbach (@philklotzbach) April 2, 2020
The federal forecast from the Climate Prediction Center will be released near the end of May.
"In recent years, water temperatures have been so warm, that even neutral years have been busy," said Bob Henson, a meteorologist and writer for Weather Underground in March. "It’s too early to make a confident forecast of how the upcoming hurricane season will evolve, but the tea leaves now on the table suggest that 2020 could be the Atlantic’s fifth season in a row with above average activity."
CSU’s is a much-anticipated report because it is one of the earlier ones issued each year and is based on research from seasonal forecast pioneer William Gray, who died in 2016 at age 86.
Still, April forecasts are notably fallible, as the atmosphere is still adjusting to seasonal changes.
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In 2019, CSU forecast a slightly below average hurricane season with El Nino predicted to persist through the summer. But the hurricane-crushing climate pattern called it quits in August, and the season ended with 18 named storms, including six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
It was the first time since 2012′s Hurricane Sandy that a season spawned an "S" storm.
In 2017, CSU’s April forecast also called for a below-average hurricane season.
The season ended Nov. 30 with 17 named storms, 10 hurricanes and six major hurricanes. Three Category 4 hurricanes crashed into the U.S.: Harvey, Irma and Maria. Harvey was the first major hurricane to hit the continental U.S. since 2005′s Hurricane Wilma.