'Above-average' hurricane season predicted this year, top experts say

\'Above-average\' hurricane season predicted this year, top experts say  

After yet another destructive hurricane season in 2019, top hurricane forecasters from Colorado State University on Thursday said we can expect major activity again this year.

"We anticipate that the 2020 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have above-normal activity," the forecast said. In addition, there is an "above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States."

The season begins June 1.

Meteorologist Phil Klotzbach and other experts from Colorado State University - among the nation's top seasonal hurricane forecasters - predict 16 named tropical storms will form, eight of which will become hurricanes.

An average season has 12 tropical storms, six of which are hurricanes.

A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when its wind speed reaches 74 mph.

Of the eight predicted hurricanes, four are expected to spin into major hurricanes - Category 3, 4 or 5 - with sustained wind speeds of 111 mph or greater. The group said there's a 69% chance for at least one major hurricane to make landfall somewhere along the U.S. coastline.

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The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, though storms sometimes form outside those dates.

The team predicts that 2020 hurricane activity will be about 140% of the average season.

Reasons for the active season include unusually warm seawater in the Atlantic Ocean and also the lack of an El Niño.

One of the major determining factors in hurricane forecasting is whether we are in an El Niño or La Niña climate pattern.

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El Niño is a natural warming of tropical Pacific Ocean water, which tends to suppress the development of Atlantic hurricanes. Its opposite, La Niña, marked by cooler ocean water, tends to increase hurricanes in the Atlantic.

"One of the reasons for the above-average seasonal hurricane forecast from CSU is due to the likely lack of El Niño this summer/fall," Klotzbach tweeted Thursday. "El Niño generally increases vertical wind shear in the Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes."

Insurance companies, emergency managers and the media use the forecasts to prepare Americans for the year's hurricane threat. The team's annual predictions provide the best estimate of activity during the upcoming season, not an exact measure, according to Colorado State.

"We issue these forecasts to satisfy the curiosity of the general public and to bring attention to the hurricane problem," the university said. "There is a general interest in knowing what the odds are for an active or inactive season."

The university, under the direction of meteorologist William Gray, was the first group to predict seasonal hurricane activity in the mid-1980s. Gray died in 2016.

Slow start to 2019: The hurricane season has been rather quiet. Will it last?

This is the team's 37th forecast. It covers the Atlantic basin, which includes the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico.

AccuWeather released its hurricane forecast for the upcoming season last week, predicting that 14-18 named storms would form, of which seven to nine will be hurricanes. The firm said two to four are likely to hit the USA.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will issue its forecast in late May.

The first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season will be Arthur, followed by Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay and Gonzalo.

Colorado State forecasters will update their predictions three times over the next few months.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Hurricane forecast 2020: Eight hurricanes are predicted to form


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