By John Haughey | The Center Square
The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) warned there is a 60 percent chance for another “above normal” hurricane season in the Atlantic basin this year.
The NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center issued its update in a release forecasting “a likely range of 13 to 19 named storms, of which six to 10 could become hurricanes, including three to six major hurricanes" of category 3 or higher.
“NOAA’s analysis of current and seasonal atmospheric conditions reveals a recipe for an active Atlantic hurricane season this year,” NOAA Acting Administrator Neil Jacobs said Thursday.
An average hurricane season, which begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30, produces 12 named storms, of which six become hurricanes, including three “major” storms.
In early April, the oft-cited Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University’s Department of Atmospheric Science predicted as many as four major Atlantic hurricanes, with a 70 percent chance of at least one category 3 or larger hurricane making landfall on the U.S. East Coast and/or Gulf Coast.
The CSU model projects there will be 16 named storms, including eight hurricanes, with four major storms of category 3 or higher.
Both models indicate “above normal” hurricane activity, marking the first time such a forecast has been issued for five consecutive years.
For the sixth year in a row, a named Atlantic basin storm already materialized as Tropical Storm Arthur emerged from the south Atlantic last week.
The combination of several climate factors is driving the strong likelihood for above-normal activity in the Atlantic this year, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said.
According to the center, “El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions are expected to either remain neutral or to trend toward La Niña, meaning there will not be an El Niño present to suppress hurricane activity.”
La Niña is a climate pattern that enhances Atlantic hurricane formation while the other extreme, El Niño, depresses hurricane formation.
NOAA’s forecast indicates there is a 50 percent chance the Atlantic will remain in the middle of the two extremes, in what’s known as neutral conditions, and a 40 percent chance a La Niña could develop.
NOAA also cites “warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, coupled with reduced vertical wind shear, weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds, and an enhanced west African monsoon (that) all increase the likelihood for an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season.”
Florida officials have taken measures to address hurricane preparation amid the COVID-19 emergency, including the Florida Public Service Commission’s plan to establish more staging areas to reduce massing of relief workers, shifts to single-serve packaging of food and revamped sleeping arrangements for electrical restoration crews.
Florida Division of Emergency Management (DEM) Director Jared Moskowitz said in early May his agency is developing plans about evacuations designed to reduce crowding in shelters.
Former FEMA and Florida DEM director Craig Fugate told The Southern Group’s virtual education conference recently that more school campuses with smaller capacities but larger footprints should be converted into shelters and FEMA’s Transitional Shelter Assistance should make more hotels and motels available.
“We actually have kind of an unusual situation, a lot of vacancies in hotels and motels across the state that would not normally be there during the peak of hurricane season,” he said. “So this seems to be a very viable option to be able to, at least for higher risk – particularly elderly, pre-existing conditions or people who have had exposures – going straight to a hotel or motel. But I don’t think we get out of schools as primary shelters.”