2020 Hurricane Season Forecast

Forecast for Atlantic Hurricane Season and Common Questions

June 5, 2020
Hurricane Isabel 2003
Pixabay

Hurricane season 2020 officially began on June 1. See this year’s hurricane forecast—including expected number of storms and how many storms are predicted to make landfall. Also, find your common questions and answers about Earth’s most violent storms!

An Early Start for 2020

The official Atlantic hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30 (though hurricanes can certainly happen at any time). Forecasts cover the Atlantic Basin—the area encompassing the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.

On May 16—approximately two weeks prior to the official start of the 2020 season—Tropical Storm Arthur became the first named storm of the year. (Starting early is not unusual. This marks the 6th consecutive year.) Later, on May 27, Tropical Storm Bertha became the second named storm, followed by Tropical Storm Cristobal on June 3. 

2020 Hurricane Forecast

Each year, a series of hurricane forecasts are issued from April through August by the noted hurricane experts at the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University (CSU). Additional forecasts are put out by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

When it comes to hurricanes, there are many indicators related to atmospheric and oceanic conditions that indicate what to expect. Keep in mind: Whatever the forecast, remember that it only takes one hurricane to make landfall and coastal residents should prepare for every hurricane season.

Below is information from CSU’s hurricane season forecasts. (The next CSU hurricane forecast will be released on July 7.)

What Is the 2020 Hurricane Season Outlook?

  • An above-average hurricane season is predicted. The main reasons for this stronger-than-usual forecast:
    • Current El Niño climate conditions, which tend to suppress hurricane activity, are predicted to weaken to either a cool neutral El Niño or a weak La Niña during late summer. This would likely result in increased storm activity in the Atlantic.
    • In the tropical Atlantic, sea surface temperatures are somewhat above normal, which tends to be associated with stronger storms. In the subtropical Atlantic, temperatures are much warmer than average.
  • Above-normal probability of major hurricanes striking the U.S. coastline is also predicted.
    • The latest forecast from Colorado State University gives a 70% chance of a major (Category 3 or greater) hurricane making landfall along the entire coast of the continental U.S., a 46% chance along the East Coast and Florida peninsula, a 45% chance along the Gulf Coast, and a 59% chance in the Caribbean. These probabilities are roughly 15% above the averages for the last century.

How Many Hurricanes Are Expected This Year?

Overall, an above-average number of storms is expected in 2020:

  • CSU’s forecast (published June 4, 2020) predicts a total of 19 named tropical storms (average is 12.1) for the year, of which 9 will become hurricanes (average is 6.4). Of the hurricanes that are expected to occur, 4 will turn into major hurricanes (average is 2.7). Major hurricanes are storms reaching at least Category 3 strength in the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.
  • NOAA’s initial forecast (published May 21, 2020) predicts a 60% chance of an “above-normal” season made up of between 13 and 19 named tropical storms. Of those storms, between 6 and 10 are likely to become hurricanes, and between 3 and 6 of those hurricanes could become major hurricanes (category 3, 4, or 5). Read NOAA’s forecast here.

2020 Forecast of Atlantic Hurricane Activity (CSU)

Forecast Parameters

 Extended Forecast
(April 2020)

Updated Forecast
(June 2020)

Final Forecast
(August 2020)

Observed Storm Activity
(through June 2, 2020)

Median Count
(1981-2010) 
Named Storms 16 16* - 3 12.1
Named Storm Days 80 81.75 - 3.25 59.4
Hurricanes 8 9 - 0 6.4
Hurricane Days 35 40 - 0 24.2
Major Hurricanes 4 4 - 0 2.7
Major Hurricane Days 9 9 - 0 6.2
Accumulated Cyclone Energy 150 158 - 2 106
Net Tropical Cyclone Activity 160% 164% - 6% 116%
Activity Level Above average Well above average - -

*Number does not include tropical storms Arthur, Bertha, and Cristobal, which had formed prior to the release of the June 4 forecast.

2020 Hurricane Names

See this year’s list of hurricane names for both the Atlantic Basin and Eastern North-Pacific. Is your name listed? The World Meteorological Organization’s Hurricane Committee chooses these names (not The Old Farmer’s Almanac!).

The list actually repeats every six years unless a storm is so severe that the World Meteorological Organization votes to retire that name from future lists. See more about how hurricanes get their names.

More than 60 names have been retired since 1950 because they resultd in significant property damage or deaths. A name can be retired at the request of a country affected by the storm. See the most recent list of retired hurricane names.

2019 Hurricane Season Summary

Overall, the 2019 hurricane season had slightly more storm activity than expected, with more named tropical storms than normal, but a near-average number of hurricanes. September was a considerably more active month than predicted, as was October, while August saw very little storm activity.

2019 Hurricane season storm paths. Image courtesy of Wikipedia.
Image: Paths of storms during the 2019 hurricane season. Image courtesy of Xyclone/Wikipedia.

The most intense storm of the 2019 season was Hurricane Dorian, which struck the Bahamas as a Category 5 hurricane in early September. It was the costliest storm in Bahamian history, leaving behind $3.4 billion in damage and killing at least 74 people, though many more are still missing. Dorian then continued northward, weakening to a Category 1 hurricane before striking the coast of North Carolina and, later, Atlantic Canada.

Read more about last year’s season in the full CSU 2019 hurricane report.

Forecast Parameters

Initial 2019 Forecast
(April 2019)

Final 2019 Forecast
(August 2019)

Observed Storm Activity
(November 2019)

Median Count
(1981-2010) 
Named Storms 13 14 18 12
Named Storm Days 50 55 68.5 60.1
Hurricanes 5 7 6 6.5
Hurricane Days 16 20 23.25 21.3
Major Hurricanes 2 2 3 2
Major Hurricane Days 4 5 10 3.9
Accumulated Cyclone Energy 80 105 130 92
Net Tropical Cyclone Activity 90% 110% 142% 103%
Activity Level Slightly below-average About average Slightly above-average

Facts About Hurricanes

Q. What Is a Hurricane?

A. A hurricane is a tropical storm with winds that have reached a constant speed of at least 74 mph in the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico. A hurricane’s winds blow in a large spiral around a relatively calm center of extremely low pressure known as the eye of the storm. Around the rim of the eye, winds may gust to more than 200 mph. The eye of a storm is usually 20 to 30 miles wide and may extend over 400 miles. The entire storm can be up to 340 miles in diameter, dominating the ocean surface and lower atmosphere for thousands of square miles.

Q. How Does a Hurricane Form?

A. Hurricanes only form over warm waters in the tropics (usually above 27°C, or about 81°F). Think of a hurricane like a giant engine. It’s fuel is warm, moist air—which rises from from the oceans causing an area of lower pressure below. Then the air from surrounding areas with higher air pressure pushes in to the low pressure area. Then that “new” air becomes warm and moist and rises, too. As the warm air continues to rise, the surrounding air swirls in to take its place. As the warmed, moist air rises and cools off, the water in the air forms clouds. The whole system of clouds and wind spins and grows, fed by the ocean’s heat and water evaporating from the surface. Around their core, winds grow with great velocity, generating violent seas. Moving ashore, they sweep the ocean inward while spawning tornadoes and producing torrential rain and floods.

Storms that form north of the equator spin counterclockwise. Storms south of the equator spin clockwise. This difference is because of Earth’s rotation on its axis.

Q. How Do We Know a Hurricane Is Coming?

A. Now, thanks to satellite technology, no hurricane goes unnoticed. See our article on “Predicting Hurricanes: The Eyes Have It” to learn more.

It also usually takes several days to a week for a tropical storm to grow into a hurricane and there is often plenty of time to take precautionary measures unlike some extreme weather events (such as a tornado).

But if conditions are just right, a powerful major hurricane can develop in just hours. This has been called “rapid intensification” by the National Hurricane Center. When conditions are just perfect, a storm can increase its wind speed 35 mph in 24 hours or less—about two categories on the Saffir-Simpson scale, which grades hurricane strength from 1 to 5. Rapid intensification, however, is rare, with just one or two Atlantic storms per year undergoing such an acceleration. 

Q. What Is the Cause of Hurricane Damage?

A. Hurricanes actually weaken when they hit land, because they are no longer being “fed” by the energy from the warm ocean waters. When hurricanes move over large landmasses, they can die out quickly because they lose the power of the heat and condensation. However, they often move far inland, dumping many inches of rain and causing lots of wind damage before they die out completely. So it’s not just high winds that cause danger; it’s the torrential rains and storm surges. A hurricane can last for 2 weeks or more over open water and can follow a path across the entire length of the eastern seaboard, coastal areas, and barrier islands. 

Q. Which Areas Are Most Susceptible to Hurricanes?

A. All Atlantic and Gulf coastal areas are subject to hurricanes or tropical storms. Although rarely struck by hurricanes, parts of the Southwest and Pacific Coast suffer heavy rains and floods each year from the remnants of hurricanes spawned off Mexico. Islands such as Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico also are subject to hurricanes.

Hurricane Felix (2007)
Hurricane Felix (2007)

Q. Is a Hurricane the Same as a Cyclone? How Is Tropical Weather Classified?

A. A hurricane is actually one of three kinds of tropical storms, or cyclones, that circulate over tropical waters. The circulation is counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. Tropical cyclones are classified as follows:

  • Tropical depression: An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less.

  • Tropical storm: An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34 to 63 knots).

  • Hurricane: An intense tropical weather system with a well-defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher. In the western Pacific, hurricanes are called typhoons. Similar storms in the Indian Ocean are called cyclones. Hurricanes are further classified by rank according to how strong their winds are.

Q. How Are Hurricanes Classified and What Are Hurricane Categories?

A. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a 1-5 rating based on the hurricane’s present intensity. This is used to give an estimate of the potential property damage and flooding expected along the coast from a hurricane landfall. Wind speed is the determining factor in the scale, as storm surge values are highly dependent on the slope of the continental shelf in the landfall region. Wind speeds are measured using a 1-minute average. See more about the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale.

Saffir-Simpson Wind (mph) Hurricane Examples
Category One 74 - 95 Allison (1995), Danny (1997)
Category Two 96 - 110 Bonnie (1998), George (1998), Gustav (2002)
Category Three 111 - 130 Roxane (1995), Fran (1996), Rita (2005)
Category Four 131 - 155 Opal (1995), Iniki (1992), Charley (2004), Katrina (2005)
Category Five 156 + Andrew (1992), Matthew (2016), Irma (2017), Maria (2017)

Q. What Do Hurricane Warnings Mean?

A. A hurricane watch means that hurricane-force winds are possible within 48 hours. A hurricane warning means that hurricane-force winds are likely within 36 hours.

Have you ever experienced a hurricane first hand? Tell us about it in the comments below.

Source: 

Colorado State University, Dept. of Atmospheric Science

Reader Comments

Leave a Comment

Hurricanes

Been through 6 of them here in Port Saint Lucie..they were all Cat3. They were horrifying to say the least. Some were short and some were relentless. All you can think of when is it going to pass. The stress is unbearable. The fear is strong. Going to sleep is impossible.

Hurricanes

Home owner in Florida, did notice during a active hurricane season hornets and wasps would nests on east side of house, is this a common occurrence that you know of? Was really amazing when Charlie came through in 04 there were hundreders!

Track The Tropics

Be prepared for the possible active 2020 Hurricane Season by bookmarking TrackTheTropics .com

African Dust

Predictions seem to ignore the dust coming off of Africa. Dust seems to kill more storms than anything else, with the possible exception of wind shear. How dusty is Africa this year?

Saharan Dust from Africa

The Editors's picture

Many factors go into these predictions, and we get them from the sources cited. Not every factor may be given. This Almanac is forecasting a major huricane in mid-September along the Florida–North Carolina coast and several tropical storms. You can find more information here https://www.almanac.com/weather/longrange 

To your point, there have been at least a few heavy dust events this year off of Africa. In late January, satellies observed Saharan dust blowing all the way to Houston, Texas. Over February 22 and 23, a dust storm over the Canary Islands (an event locally referred to as La Calima) was carried on winds up of 75 mph and reduced visibility and disrupted air and land travel through Feb 24. A week prior a massive cloud of dust darkened thousands of miles of West African coastline. Another dust storm blew out from the coast of Morocco into the Atlantic on March 8. These events indicate that extremely dry air is coming off of the Sahara Desert. How dusty? Very.

west coast

Why is the united states west coast hurricane season NOT mentioned in this forcast.

Why hurricanes seldom occur on the US West Coast

The Editors's picture

WInd direction and water temps are two big reasons that hurricanes tend not to occur along the US West Coast. Tropical storms need high humidty and warm sea surface temperatures (80+°F); the Gulf Stream provides this on the US East Coast, while along the US West Coast, the water temp seldom rises above the low 70s°F. Also, hurricanes north of the equator tend to move west-northwest. So a storm that forms off the coast of Africa gets blown toward the Carribean and southern States, while a storm on a west-northwest path in the Pacific would steer away from the West Coast.

DORA 1964

That was a storm! We had no water or power for 3 weeks we had 100 year old oak trees laying on the ground around our house But luckily not on the house.
Finally the electric company got out to us and returned the power.
That was Dora, funny thing is I was born in mount dora.

Hurricane Michael

I sat and watched as Hurricane Michael came thru Panama City, Fl. It was the most nerve raking hurricane I have ever lived thru and, coming from NJ, I have lived thru many. I have never seen such damage and have never seen the wind blow to it just became white before my eyes. I saw as the trains were blown right off the tracks, but in the end I saw how people came together to help each other in the time of need. We really were #850 strong.

Hurricanes

I lived for many years in NC and spent 17 years in Wilmington. I probably experienced 7 hurricanes during that time period. One year we had 3! We had plenty of time to prepare. Our neighbors would all come out when the eye went over. We'd check on damage and safety, have a party and go back in once the winds picked up to weather out the rest of the storm. It was a time of real community.

Hurricanes

Do u think that new Orleans will get a another major because it's been hot

Hurricanes

The Editors's picture

Warmer temperatures don’t necessarily mean more storms. However, they can cause storms to hold more water vapor, which results in more rain and a higher potential for flooding.

How do i get monthly Farmers

How do i get monthly Farmers Almanac sent to my p.o. box?

Almanac newsletter

The Editors's picture

Hi! The Old Farmer's Almanac is an annual publication. However, we do offer a daily newsletter called the Almanac Companion. It's free! Learn more and sign up here: https://www.almanac.com/newsle...

What are the chances

What are the chances something like sandy will happen again in our lifetime. We have major damage to our house due to water coming in from bay near Atlantic beach Long Island should we invest in moving our electric panel to higher ground?

Hi, Mimi, Sorry to hear about

The Editors's picture

Hi, Mimi, We are saddened hear about your difficulties with Hurricane Sandy. As for whether this kind of weather event might happen again... It's impossible to say. The experts seem to be of the mind that similar events could occur in the foreseeable future, primarily because the Atlantic Ocean is abnormally warm while at the same time the temperature of the Pacific is variable (yes, the Pacific Ocean) and certain conditions are in place in the north Atlantic. The temperatures of the oceans vary, sometimes over months, sometimes over years.
However, you would be wise to take whatever cautions you can against any future event—and you will probably rest easier just knowing that you have done all that you can. Best wishes for a thorough and swift recovery. (It must have been frightening!) And thanks for your interest in The Old Farmer's Almanac.

What would happen if the same

What would happen if the same area of Hurricane Kat. would be hit again by a different one?(Same power) Would the effect caused by it be much worse or the same or even not as bad? Just a thought.

Intersting. This says below

Intersting. This says below avg chance of Hurricanes this year

Okay, I'm in southern

Okay, I'm in southern NH..Milford,besides the handy weatherman how can I tell if "Irene" is gonna get us good or just alot of hype??

I read about hurricane in my

I read about hurricane in my school days though I didn't get much information about hurricane in my school books, but here I get more information about hurricane. I didn't know hurricane nine names. And here in our country no hurricane is formed and occur, but I see in T.V. Thank you for providing a lot of information about hurricane. Now, I tell about hurricane to my younger ones. :)

The hurricane is gaining

The hurricane is gaining strength. Boats are being hauled ashore and water sport businesses are canceling reservations. Ferry trips are also canceled. Just barely a hurricane, this is the sixteenth tropical storm this year. The barely-a-hurricane Paula has already hit Mexico. Honduras and a few other nations are also in danger. Hurricane Paula - Category 1 storm ponds Mexico and Honduras. The storm isn't anticipated to strengthen, but it's predicted to continue to do serious destruction for a few days. This storm is sure to produce heavy rains that could cause flash floods and mudslides. Residents should keep an eye on it, and prioritize their safety.

I heard a man speaking, a

I heard a man speaking, a scientist I believe from the Gulf Coast Association, he was describing how back in 1979 when we had a very huge and devastating oil spill, far greater than our current 2010 oil spill....how a hurricane "healed" the effects of the oil spill almost immediately afterwards. He also described the hurricane as natures washing machine for cleansing our earths "grime". Any comments from you are appreciated.

In 79 there was not the same

In 79 there was not the same access to technological information as we have now. If a huge hurricane was the world's washing machine, where did all the oil, dirt and grime filter to? It went somewhere no? So although we do not see all the grime and dirt left by us, it still exists and poisons us but we are not as aware of it's existence because it has been broken up into smaller peices. But that doens't mean it's gone. The particles may still be leathal.

Hurricanes and oil spills

The Editors's picture

There seem to be a lot of opinions and predictions of how a hurricane might affect the spill (and how the spill might affect a hurricane), but—it appears from numerous sources—nothing specific/exacting to base them on, as a situation such as exists in the Gulf has never occurred.
 
I am sure you, too, have your sources, but that is a statement from National Public Radio” “If a hurricane encounters the oil slick now covering parts of the Gulf of Mexico, the result could be devastating, scientists say. Not only could any hurricane increase the damage that oil does to coastal wetlands, but the presence of oil could lead to a more powerful hurricane, they say. Nobody knows for sure, though, because there’s no record of a hurricane ever crossing paths with a large oil spill.”
 
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has created a response to questions about how a hurricane might affect the spill; see here: www.nhc.noaa.gov/pdf/hurricanes_oil_factsheet.pdf

Why aren't hurricanes in your

Why aren't hurricanes in your long range weather forcasts ?

Because they form without

Because they form without looking very different than regular ocean patterns until, 48 hours until the true forming, it can be declared as one. This can be hard to catch because they are so unpredictable.

Hurricane forecasts

The Editors's picture

The Old Farmer’s Almanac does include hurricane forecasts in the long-range predictions. See the General Weather section in the 2010 Almanac that you are referencing.

"Hurricane, An intense

"Hurricane, An intense tropical weather system with a well-defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher." Shouldn't this read "and minimum sustained winds instead of maximum ...???

"Maximum sustained wind" is a

The Editors's picture

"Maximum sustained wind" is a term used for classifying and measuring hurricanes. It refers to a wind speed that is consistent and relatively long lasting. So, a storm is classified as a hurricane if the maximum sustained winds reach at least 74 mph. Thanks for commenting!