The 2020 hurricane season is expected to have above normal numbers of tropical storms and hurricanes which could lead to a very busy season according to experts at an AccuWeather briefing Tuesday.
Daniel Kottlowski, Expert Senior Meteorologist at AccuWeather, noted that there is some potential for this season to become a “hyper-active” year with more than 20 tropical storms. This could happen if the El Niño–Southern Oscillation pattern transitions into a La Nina phase by September.
Analog years chosen for this season suggest a good chance for multiple impact on the U.S. mainland. One of those years, 2005, was the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record 27 named storms and 15 hurricanes including Katrina and Rita.
However, other comparative years include 1952, 1959, 1978 and 1980 which only saw two major hurricanes form compared to 2005’s seven.
“Going from an ENSO pattern to a normal pattern into possibly, La Nina, the atmosphere undergoes a change not only in the Pacific, but forcing other things to happen in the Atlantic,” Kottlowski said. “If we see a La Nina develop quickly in the Pacific like it did in 2005, it creates sinking air and motion in the Pacific and creates compensating upward motion in the Atlantic. Simply put when you have upward motion, clouds and precipitation forms and hurricanes form more readily.
“There are some differences this year from 2005. Even though water temperatures were warm in 2005, the temperature in the gulf and Caribbean were super warm. We don’t have that yet. That may evolve and that’s something we will have to take a look at.”
Kottlowski added that this year and 2005 are similar but the ENSO patterns must be watched before knowing more for sure.
“We won’t know that until July or August,” Kottlowski said. “If the waters in the Pacific get really cool and you notice the trend is in place. Right now, water temperatures aren’t cooling as much as in certain years that you would expect, so that is good news. It means it is very slow to do so.”
Becky DePodwin, emergency management and preparedness specialist for AccuWeather noted that residents and interests along the coast should be fully prepared for a direct impact, including the Caribbean. A hurricane plan being put in place is highly advised and to review it before the season starts in June.
“There is a lot we can be doing now that we are sitting home with more free time than we usually have,” DePodwin said, citing the COVID-19 pandemic. “Talk to your home insurance agent. Find out if you are in a flood plain or not and if you have flood insurance or not. Take an inventory of your home and see what has value to you and all of that should be documented for insurance. Take pictures of those and important documents like passwords and birth certificates in a secure location that would not be impacted by water.
“Have you hurricane kits ready. You need one gallon of water per person per three days and get three days of food.”
Southeast Texas was hit by a hurricane in all but one ESNO-based analog year provided – 1952.
A Sea-Surface Temperature Anomaly Forecast map for August-October noted that Southeast Texas is expected to see above normal Atlantic temperatures and began doing so as early as January.
If this occurs during the late part of the hurricane season, there should be near-to-above normal development potential.
Kottlowski added that people should plan trips if the COVID-19 pandemic slows down and people should get insurance for such journeys, but to be practical in planning.