2020 Atlantic hurricane season expected to break records

Posted at 3:21 PM, Aug 19, 2020
and last updated 2020-08-19 19:34:47-04

A quick start to the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, yet we're far from the finish line. It is one name after another at a record pace as we enter peak hurricane season.

"Right now, we're forecasting 19 to 25 named storms, which would mean we would run out if we get to that 25 number. We start using the Greek Alphabet when we run out of the names that had been set prior to the season," atmospheric scientist Chris Slocum explained.

For instance, Alpha, Beta and Gamma, which will be a repeat of the 2005 hurricane season.

Slocum says with the high probability of more named storms, NOAA is counting on its fleet of satellites to collect and transmit data quickly into the weather models. Slocum explained some of the advances of the Joint Polar Satellite System (JPSS) and NOAA's Geostationary Satellite Server (GOES-East and GOES-West) help forecasters get better prepared for tropical storms.

"The improvements to the GOES is basically like going from a black and white television to an HDTV. We also collect lightning data, and that lightning data is also invaluable for short-term forecasts. It updates fairly quickly, and a little bit faster than our traditional ways of tracking severe weather with weather radar," Slocum said. Essentially, the new products allow us to better recognize features embedded within rain bands such as the tornadoes associated with Isaias. The goal is to communicate hazards immediately to help ensure safety before, during and after the storm.

"In the case of a hurricane, those rain bands can be fairly well behaved - you can provide some lead time. We saw this with Isaias and the number of tornado warnings that were issued by the National Weather Service, an extremely high amount for a tropical storm, and that provided really vital information at a sufficient lead time for folks," Slocum said.

As of early August, NOAA went from a 60 percent chance of an active season to now an 85 percent chance. The latest NOAA forecast shows 19-25 named storms with 7 to 11 becoming hurricanes, and 3 to 6 becoming major hurricanes when winds could reach or exceed 111 mph and cause damage. Environmental conditions such warmer water temperatures and low wind shear supports the active 2020 season.

September is the peak month for tropical activity according to climatology. Be sure to stay prepared and look for updates from our News 3 First Warning Storm Team. Hurricane season ends November 30th.