HOUSTON (Reuters) – U.S. forecasters expect an above-normal 13-19 named storms during the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center said on Thursday.
NOAA forecasters estimate three to six major hurricanes packing winds of at least 111 miles (179 km) per hour may form. The last two years have seen an above-average number of named storms with 18 last year and 15 in 2018.
Gerry Bell, lead forecaster with the Climate Prediction Center, said the Atlantic is in a warm cycle of a multi-decadal pattern that has dominated the ocean’s weather since 1995.
“We’re predicting this to be an above-normal season, possibly very active,” Bell said.
About half of this year’s named storms may reach hurricane strength, with winds of at least 74 mph. The season formally begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30.
The 2020 season started early with Tropical Storm Arthur, bringing heavy rains to the southeastern U.S. coast this week before dissipating on Tuesday. No storms are currently brewing.
During a conference call with reporters, Carlos Castillo, acting deputy sdministrator at the Federal Emergency Management Agency, encouraged residents to make plans to stay with family or friends in an evacuation.
“I think we can’t just count on hotel rooms,” he said. “There will be public shelters. We always encourage people to stay with friends and family.”
The 18 tropical storms that developed in 2019 included six hurricanes, three of which were major. The average hurricane season produces 12 named storms and six hurricanes, three of which are major.
NOAA’s seasonal outlook is consistent with recent academic and private forecasts. Above-average ocean surface temperatures in the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico and an absence of high-level El Nino winds that break up storms portend a more active season, researchers have said.
Reporting by Erwin Seba, Editing by Franklin Paul and Tom Brown