Hurricane forecasters work year-round, attempting to predict what Mother Nature will do. They take into account wind patterns, water temperatures and other data. Colorado State University hurricane expert Phil Klotzbach issues his hurricane forecast first, in early April.
In 2020, Klotzbach is calling for 8 hurricanes, 4 of which will become major hurricanes. The report said there is a 69% chance that at least one major hurricane would make landfall on the U.S. coastline, and a 45% chance it would strike somewhere in Florida or the East Coast.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) put out its report on May 21. It forecasts a 60% chance of an above-normal season. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is forecasting a likely range of 13 to 19 named storms, of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes, including 3 to 6 major hurricanes. (An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms, of which 6 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes.)
Currently, the El Niño and La Niña situations are pretty balanced, or what meteorologists call neutral.
“Forecasts are misleading. It’s an over-under game, whether there are two more or three less hurricanes in a season. It’s irrelevant,” Senterfitt said. “It causes people to let their guard down.”
— Former Monroe County Emergency Management Director Marty Senterfitt
“What that means is that you don’t have a factor for, or against, the making of a busy season,” said Jon Rizzo, warning coordination meteorologist in Key West. However, NOAA said conditions could trend toward La Niña, meaning an uptick in the possibility of hurricane formation.
Plus, waters off the coast of Africa are warmer than usual right now, Rizzo said. “That sometimes can create an environment that favors hurricane development. What it doesn’t tell you is whether or not the storms will make it all the way across the Atlantic Ocean.”
But … it only takes one.
“I warned folks about Hurricane Andrew in 1992. It was a very powerful hurricane in a below-average season. It was late-occurring, and it was the first named storm deep into August,” Rizzo said. “I don’t know if anyone can name another in that season. Even though it may seem like good news to have fewer storms, you still have to be ready.”