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2020 Atlantic, Caribbean & Gulf Of Mexico Hurricane Season Forecast (Issued March 10)

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: