Through a remote presentation at the virtual National Tropical Weather Conference, hurricane expert Dr. Phil Klotzbach unveiled Colorado State University’s (CSU) annual outlook for the Atlantic hurricane basin, projecting above normal activity for the 2020 season. The Atlantic Hurricane Season officially kicks off on June 1 and runs through November 30; storms occasionally do form outside of the season.
Due to a warmer than normal tropical Atlantic and the anticipated lack of El Nino this year, the CSU forecast calls for an above-average season with 16 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 major (Category 3+) hurricanes. A typical season sees 12 named storms and 6 hurricanes; this year those numbers are expected to be at 16 and 8 respectively. 80 named storm days are expected; the yearly average is usually 59.4; 35 hurricane days are expected versus the average of 24.2, and 9 major hurricane days are expected versus the average of 6.2. The outlook is also calling for above-normal chances of landfalls on the U.S. East Coast, the Florida Peninsula, and the Gulf Coast. In the last century, the odds that a major hurricane would strike somewhere along the U.S. East Coast is 52%; this year, the outlook suggests a 69% chance. In a typical year, there’s a 31% chance that a major hurricane would strike the U.S. East Coast including the Florida Peninsula; this year, there’s a 45% chance. And for the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle west to Brownsville, Texas, the average chance for a landfall of a major hurricane there is 30%; this year, the chance rises to 44%. The full outlook is available online at this link: https://tropical.colostate.edu/media/sites/111/2020/04/2020-04.pdf.
Study authors caution that it just takes one storm to create a large disaster: “Coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them, and they need to prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.”
The outlook endeavor at CSU is led by Research Scientist Dr. Phil Klotzbach. He received his Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from CSU in 2007. Klotzbach has been employed in the Department of Atmospheric Science for the past nineteen years and was co-author on the Atlantic basin hurricane forecasts with Dr. William Gray through 2005. He became first author on the seasonal hurricane forecasts in 2006. Klotzbach developed the two-week forecasts currently being issued during the peak months of the hurricane season between August-October. He has published over two dozen articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Journal of Climate and Weather and Forecasting.
The seasonal outlook is unveiled each year at the National Tropical Weather Conference hosted on South Padre Island, Texas. Due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, the live, in-person event was scrubbed. However, event organizers are making content that would normally be featured at the event available online at their Facebook page.