Eye on the Tropics

Update: NOAA’s Hurricane season forecast predicts a record number of storms this season

ORLANDO, Fla. — Nota en español: Actualización: Pronóstico oficial para temporada de huracanes señala a una temporada extremadamente activa

Since before the official start of hurricane season, all signals have been suggesting an active season. So far this season has been record-breaking already. Nine storms have formed. On average the “I” storm form by October 4. Historically the most active months are August and September.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration Climate Prediction Center’s signaled above-average activity in its initial hurricane season forecast at the end of May. Updated this morning, the forecast shows a notable increase in the number of storms predicted. Although they don’t forecast the most active season on record, they do state that this season could come close to establishing a record number of named storms.


NOAA’s forecast is not predicting 19-25 named tropical systems of which 7-11 could become hurricanes. Of those hurricanes, about 3-6 could be in the “major” category. NOAA’s confidence in this forecast increased to 85%. This season could be classified as an extremely active season.

The average season has 12 named storms, six of which are likely to be hurricanes, with three becoming major hurricanes.

These types of forecasts should be used as guidance. Remember, it only takes one tropical storm or hurricane to impact your location to make it a busy season for you. Also, this or any season forecast does not discuss locations of landfall as those are impossible to predict without a current system to analyze.

Read more: Hurricane Season 2020: How are they named? Who names them? Why? When? Why they retire names? Why isn’t Dorian retired yet?


Sea surface water temperatures have been above average over the Atlantic and Caribbean regions. The warmer the waters are, the more energy is available to tropical systems to feed off. The African Monsoon has been active too. The more saturation over this area of Africa, the more evaporation happens, creating more easterly waves coming from the continent.

Also, at the beginning of July, NOAA put out a “La Niña watch.” Although we are currently in a neutral phase, meaning there is no El Niño, or La Niña, the forecast favors the development of La Niña during the next few months. The probability of La Niña to form is not exceptionally high, but there is a 50% to 55% chance of it occurring.

Scientists look at current conditions over the tropical Pacific and computer guidance to make their forecast. Computers models have been showing a cooling trend of the tropical Pacific waters. The recent water temperatures registered have also been trending below average. Although this occurs in the Pacific, it has an impact on the Atlantic Hurricane season. When there is a La Niña present in the summer months, it tends to reduce the wind shear over the Atlantic region. Wind shear is the change in direction in winds with height: the greater the wind shear, the more a tropical system will struggle to maintain its structure. If weak shear is weak, a tropical system can build and often become more intense.


Colorado State University also released an update to its season forecast. The renowned team of scientists led by Phil Klotzbach is now predicting 24 named storms, 12 of which could become hurricanes, and 5 could be major hurricanes. These numbers include the 9 systems already formed this season.

It is worth noting that the hurricane name list uses 21 names (no [Q], [U], [X], [Y], [Z]). If we get more storms than there are names, we would start using the Greek alphabet. Twenty-four named storms would mean we would use all the names in the list, as well as Alpha, Beta, and Gamma.

For reference, the last time the Greek alphabet was used was during the 2005 hurricane season. That hyperactive year there were six letters of the Greek alphabet used.


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