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2020 Atlantic, Caribbean & Gulf Of Mexico Hurricane Season Forecast (UPDATED August 7)

Updated August 7 Forecast: As you all know, I’m usually pretty measured, calm and do not hype things when it comes to tropical storms and hurricanes. With that said, I am about as worried right now as I have ever been regarding a forecast for the rest of a hurricane season – so, this updated forecast for the rest of the hurricane season is the exception to my calm and measured approach.

While the next week to possibly ten days looks relatively quiet, it looks like a “hurricane outbreak” is increasingly becoming more likely from about August 20-25 to about September 25-30.

As I mentioned a couple of days ago, Colorado State University just posted their updated seasonal forecast & the forecast is about as active as I have ever seen it. The forecast is for an additional 15 named storms (24 named storms total), 10 more of these to become hurricanes (12 hurricanes total) and 5 of these hurricanes to become major hurricanes.

Looking over all of the data and how it seems like every single tropical disturbance tries, at least, to develop – I completely agree with this forecast & the scary part is that the numbers may still be on the low side. This means we have the potential to eclipse the numbers from the 1933 and 1969 hurricane seasons and to either approach or even beat the 2005 hurricane season in terms of activity. It also means that there is the very real potential to use up all of the names on the 2020 list & to go into the Greek Alphabet like we did in 2005.

In addition to this, NOAA also updated their seasonal forecast yesterday and are going with an additional 10 to 16 named storms (19-25 storms total), 5 to 9 more of these to become hurricanes (7-11 hurricanes total) and 3 to 6 of these hurricanes to become major hurricanes.

The reasons why we are now expecting an extremely active rest of the hurricane season are:

1. The environmental conditions across the Main Development Region of the Tropical Atlantic are very to extremely favorable for development. These conditions include exceptionally warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures, a stronger West African monsoon, low wind shear values, below average surface barometric pressures, weaker than average trade winds, and a more favorable than average wind flow pushing off of Africa.

2. Even though we are currently in neutral ENSO conditions, it is becoming increasingly more likely that La La Niña conditions will develop by Autumn. In fact, some La Niña-like atmospheric conditions already appear to be in place. La Niña typically reduces the vertical wind shear over the Atlantic, thus also favoring a more active hurricane season. There is NO CHANCE AT ALL that El Niño conditions will develop and suppress the hurricane season.

3. The seasonal model guidance are now forecasting not only the likelihood of an extremely active rest of the hurricane season, but also a very dangerous weather pattern that could guide tropical storms/hurricanes towards land, instead of “out to sea”.

As I mentioned at the beginning of this discussion, a “hurricane outbreak” looks possible starting between about August 20 and August 25. The reason why is because a massive upward motion pulse of the Madden Julian Oscillation is expected to push into the Atlantic Basin during the second half of this month. This will lead to a significant increase in tropical activity across the Atlantic Basin starting between August 20 and August 25 and continue until at least September 25 to September 30. I cannot emphasize enough of how favorable this configuration and its timing looks in terms of hurricane formation across the Atlantic Basin from late August through September.

Even more concerning and downright scary is the forecast upper level weather pattern for the end of this month through the month of September.

The model guidance is pointing to the potential for a upper level high pressure ridge to be in place from near Hudson Bay, Canada through the Northeastern United States and Atlantic Canada starting later this month & continuing through September. This weather pattern configuration is dangerous because it will block any tropical systems from turning to the north & instead will guide them westward towards the Caribbean and the United States.

If that wasn’t enough, the analog guidance for later this month is EXTREMELY worrisome. The guidance supports the idea of a big high pressure ridge over Hudson Bay, Canada, which will help guide any systems towards land, instead of turning out into the open Atlantic. Also, look at some of those analog dates!!

It goes without saying that I am ALWAYS watching the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico for signs of tropical development and I will let you know of any threats well ahead of time.

Updated June 8 Forecast: The Inter-Tropical Convergence Zone (ITCZ) already looks pretty strong in terms of convection for early June. Right now though, the ITCZ is too far south to really start helping with producing tropical systems. In addition, there is quite a bit of moisture noted in water vapor loops over western Africa into the far eastern Atlantic and the amount of dust and dry air outbreaks from Africa seem to be far less intense for this time of year as compared to previous years.

This, unfortunately, is a harbinger of things to come in terms of what I think will be a very active Hurricane Season.

I’m now thinking 20 named storms (including the 3 we already have had), 10 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes.

I still think that the Caribbean, much of the US Gulf Coast, the Bahamas and the Carolinas are at particular risk this season for at least 1 hurricane landfall. Of those 4 areas mentioned, I do think that the Caribbean is at particularly high risk for a hurricane impact this season.

Original March 10 Forecast:
Summary: I am forecasting above average tropical storm and hurricane season due to a combination of either neutral ENSO conditions or La Nina conditions, an active Western African Monsoon, above average ocean water temperatures and the possibility of lower than average wind shear conditions. There is also the possibility of well above average activity this season & this is something that will need to be watched closely.

The Numbers: At least 15 Named Storms, 8 of those storms becoming Hurricanes and 3 of those hurricanes becoming Major Hurricanes (Category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale).

Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE) Index Forecast: I am forecasting an ACE index this year of 130. This number basically says that I expect that overall activity in the Atlantic will be above average.

ENSO Conditions: ENSO neutral conditions are present across the Pacific and a majority of the ENSO model guidance are forecasting neutral conditions through the rest of this year. It should be noted that some of the guidance, especially the CFS model, is forecasting a transition to weak LA Nina conditions by late summer and early autumn.

Based on everything that I have looked at, especially the potential for a negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation, that we will see neutral ENSO conditions throughout the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season. With that said, ENSO forecasts this time of year can be highly inaccurate.

Sea Surface Temperatures: Sea surface temperatures across the western Atlantic & Caribbean (west of 55 West Longitude) is warmer than average. Across the central and eastern Tropical Atlantic, sea surface temperatures are below average. The exception is right along the west coast of Africa where ocean water temperatures are above average.

One of the keys in determining how active/inactive the hurricane season will be is how much will the deep tropics (south of 25 North Latitude) warms up during April, May and June. It should be noted that at this time in 2017, 2018 and 2019, the Atlantic Main Development Region was running a little below average in sea surface temperatures, but this pattern reversed during the hurricane season leading to a much more active season than what was originally thought.

I think that it is likely that the deep tropics will seeing above average ocean water temperatures, much like what we have seen during the last 3 hurricane seasons, during July, August and September. In addition, it looks like the Western African Monsoon will be active this year leading to the development of some strong tropical waves moving off of Africa.

Analog Years: These are the analog years that seem to be a close match right now to what the 2020 hurricane season may be like. They are 1933, 1952, 1953, 1959, 1979, 1990, 1995, 1998, 2005 & 2007.

Wind Shear Forecast: A majority of the seasonal model guidance are forecasting below average wind shear from the Lesser Antilles through the Caribbean during much of the hurricane season. In addition, a majority of the model guidance are forecasting the development of below average wind shear during August, September and October across the Gulf of Mexico and along the East Coast of the United States. This is a different look for the Caribbean than what we have seen in recent years whereas conditions may be much more favorable for Caribbean activity this year than has been in the past few years.

Landfall Threat Forecast: The Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico could be very active this hurricane season. A very persistent western Atlantic ridge of high pressure looks to remain in place through this summer into the fall. This, in combination, with an active Western African Monsoon could lead to systems being guided first into and through the Caribbean and then into the Gulf of Mexico. Unlike previous years, I think that the Caribbean may “wake up” and be active in terms of tropical storm/hurricane development.

This means that Jamaica, the Cayman Islands, Belize and the Yucatan Peninsula could be at risk this year. As for the Gulf of Mexico, even though the entire Gulf of Mexico looks to be at significant risk this season, the west coast of Florida may be at particular risk in June and then again in October. In addition, the northern and western Gulf Coast may have their highest risk during August and September.

Further east, it appears that given the forecast position of the upper level high pressure system that the region from the Bahamas to the South and North Carolina coast may be at risk this year for a tropical storm or hurricane impact.

Given my expectations for an active season in the Caribbean and the potential for an active Western African Monsoon, both the Leeward Islands and the Windward Islands will need to be watched closely for a tropical storm or hurricane impact.

For all of the other areas across the Atlantic, Caribbean and Gulf of Mexico that are not highlighted as risk areas – It does not mean there will not be a threat or impact this season.

Finally, we will begin sending out daily tropical weather discussions for the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season on Friday, May 1st.

2020 Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Names: