There’s a 60% chance of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced on Thursday.
There’s a 30% chance of a near-normal season and just a 10% chance of a below-normal season, according to NOAA.
Forecasters say we’ll likely see 13 to 19 named storms this season, of which six to 10 may become hurricanes — which means they’ll be strong enough to reach winds of 74 mph or higher.
Of those, three to six are forecast to become major hurricanes, with Category 3, 4 or 5 strength — which means they’ll have winds of 111 mph or higher.
An average hurricane season has 12 named storms, including six that become hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
Several factors are contributing to this forecast: El Nino conditions are expected to be neutral or to trend toward La Nina, meaning El Nino won’t be present to subdue hurricanes, NOAA said. Also, the ocean surface temperature is warmer than average, and there are favorable conditions for development including: diminished vertical wind shear, weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds, and an enhanced West African monsoon.
If this season is above-normal, this would mark the fifth consecutive year for an above-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic Basin — setting a record. The old record was four years in a row of above-normal seasons, which ran from 1998 to 2001.
This year’s hurricane season is made especially complicated due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“Social distancing and other CDC guidance to keep you safe from COVID-19 may impact the disaster preparedness plan you had in place,” Carlos Castillo, acting deputy administrator for resilience at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said in a statement. “With tornado season at its peak, hurricane season around the corner, and flooding, earthquakes and wildfires a risk year-round, it is time to revise and adjust your emergency plan now.”
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30. The most catastrophic hurricane of the 2019 Atlantic season was Hurricane Dorian, which grew to a powerful Category 5, decimating the Bahamas.
For the Central Pacific — which covers Hawaii — this year’s hurricane season is forecast to be near-normal to below-normal, NOAA said. That season also runs June 1 to November 30.