Atlantic hurricane forecast much more active than first thought
In late May, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials predicted that the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season would likely be above normal. Now, in the wake of Hurricane Isaias, that forecast is reading more like a certainty.
Thursday's update now shows an 85% chance of this season being above normal, with a much higher potential of being classified "extremely active," and possibly the third-most active season since 2005.
We are just now heading into the peak of the season, the forecasters said, and already there have been nine named storms, including two hurricanes, and five storms that made landfall, as Tropical Storm Fay did in New Jersey on July 10.
"Due to the record early season activity, the predicted number of named storms for the entire season is now much higher than the 13 to 19 storms we had predicted in May," Gerry Bell, lead hurricane season forecaster for NOAA, said. "This expectation is especially pertinent this year because extremely active seasons tend to have far more landfalling hurricanes than major hurricanes."
Indeed, it does not take what the experts classify as a major hurricane to have a major impact. Late Thursday, PSE&G said Isaias — which rumbled through New Jersey after being downgraded to a tropical storm — was the fifth-most severe storm in its history, and second only to Superstorm Sandy in severity over the last eight years.
"It only takes one storm landfall to make it a memorable (and catastrophic) season," New Jersey 101.5 Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow said. "The bottom line is crystal clear: The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is a very active one. And the average peak of the season is still about a month away."
NOAA is still predicting the same three to six major hurricanes it foresaw in May, but has now upped its prediction of total hurricanes to 7 to 11, with up to 25 named storms, which would approach the high of 28 set in 2005.
"Oceanic and atmospheric conditions are now even more hospitable for hurricane formation and intensification," Bell said, citing the looming presence of a developing La Nina. "These conditions are predicted to continue for the next several months."
There is only a 10% chance this Atlantic hurricane season will be even near normal, and just 5% it will end below normal, so Louis Uccellini, director of the National Weather Service, said preparing for impact will not be done in vain.
"Given the activity we have seen so far this season, coupled with the ongoing challenges that communities face in light of COVID-19, now is the time to organize your family plans," he said.