Get ready: Busy hurricane season now ‘official’

Hurricane Katrina from 2005 courtesy NOAA

Of the myriad hurricane forecasts that are put out each year (at least 20 from educational, corporate and meteorological offices), the “official” forecast from the feds is always the last and one of the most anticipated. This forecast is from the National Hurricane Center and the 2020 forecast was issued yesterday.

The NHC anticipates a 60% chance for an ABOVE-normal season, a 30% chance for an AVERAGE season, and a 10% chance for a BELOW-normal season.

As to how many, the NHC forecasts 13 to 19 named storms, six to 10 of those becoming hurricanes and three to six of those becoming major hurricanes, which is a Category 3 or higher (more than 110 mph winds).

NHC Forecast

The NHC bases this forecast on a number of factors which include warm waters in the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean. Water is the fuel for hurricanes in that warm water creates warm air and that warm air rises into the atmosphere creating showers and thunderstorms. It’s those showers that begin rotating around a common center to become hurricanes. Those are the seeds.

Above Normal Water water temps in the Gulf, Caribbean and Atlantic. Courtesy tropicaltidbits

But if that rising air is disrupted by the wind then, of course, the storms won’t form. NHC is forecasting weak trade winds and weak rising winds so that disruption is not expected. Thus, more showers to seed the hurricanes.

El Niño in the Pacific is simply warmer ocean water there, which would create rising warm air and that would in turn create wind across Central America that would disrupt the rising air in the Caribbean. However, El Niño is not there this year, so that disruption also is not there. So, the environment for hurricanes remains conducive.

Finally, the African monsoon happens pretty much every year. Monsoon is actually a wind, but people think of it as rain because those winds bring in moisture off the ocean over the land to create rain. Regardless, the monsoon season in Africa is expected to be strong which means more storms over Africa eventually moving back over the Atlantic. And when you already have storms moving over the ocean you bypass that first step of rising air to create the storms to form a hurricane! So that’s an important factor.

The Green Areas represent above normal precipitation already occurring in Western Africa. Courtesy NOAA

So expect a busy season this year. Make a plan. Have a kit. Know your neighbor.


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About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with four decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.