Forecast for Atlantic hurricane season: Getting more busy?

Written by By Gilberto Silva, Special to CNN

The official forecast for the upcoming 2020 Atlantic hurricane season released earlier this month called for 16 named storms (5% above the 20-year average), of which 5-8 would become hurricanes (4-7 above the 20-year average).

This forecast came shortly after data indicated that the 2018 Atlantic hurricane season got off to a much earlier start than usual. Through the first two weeks of July, the year has experienced an average of 12 named storms (three less than the average for the entire season) with seven becoming hurricanes (three above the average).

Researchers say a difficult El Niño is raising the odds of a busy season. “The weak El Niño conditions we have today are more likely to persist than strengthen,” noted Dr. Steve Sbrocchi, chief meteorologist for US utility Centrica and lead author of the seasonal outlook.

From Jan. 1, 2016 to Jan. 1, 2018, the US had an average of 5.4 named storms per year, while a slow El Niño year experienced 4.6 per year.

“We expect the probability of a near-normal or above-normal season to rise as El Niño strengthens, moving the odds of an above-normal season from 65% last year to 80% this year,” adds Sbrocchi.

Additionally, the forecast calls for an average probability of being struck by a hurricane of 57% for the 2015-2021 season. The highest probability would be 75% for the 2020 season, which is the highest probability since 1960.

The relatively early start to the season, coupled with the strong seasonal outlook, may result in increased demand for hurricane insurance services and a bump in hurricane landfall locations. “There will likely be some increase in demand for coverage but not much,” commented Sbrocchi.

While developing countries may be less impacted, he adds, “more of the impact will be felt in Texas and Florida, if they get an intense storm like Harvey, for example.”

Sbrocchi points out that the US often has a slow start to the season. Last year, he states, the US was hit by nine named storms, three hurricanes and two major hurricanes in early June. While this caused some disruption in June, the majority of the activity was in late June, July and August, which is a peak period for hurricane formation.

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