By Brian K. Sullivan on 5/22/2020
BOSTON (Bloomberg) –It’s becoming unanimous. Federal researchers are now weighing in on the hurricane season ahead, forecasting as many as 19 named storms for the year, at least six of which are likely to become hurricanes.
A typical season produces 12 storms, which are named when their winds reach 39 miles (63 kilometers) per hour. In all, 6 to 10 hurricanes could form, with 3 to 6 carrying winds of 111 miles per hour or more, the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.
Warm waters, the lack of a Pacific El Nino, and a greater African monsoon were among the reasons cited by the agency, who joined commercial and academic researchers in forecasting an overactive season. Atlantic storms are closely watched because they can disrupt energy and agriculture markets, and put trillions of dollars of coastal real estate at risk.
“The 2020 season is expected to be a busy one,” said Gerry Bell, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster with the Climate Prediction Center.
Other forecasters have said they worry this year’s season season could echo at least the feel of 2005 when a record 28 storms formed and New Orleans was destroyed by Hurricane Katrina.
Tropical Storm Arthur became the year’s first system when it formed May 16, prior to the traditional June 1 start of the Atlantic season.
Gulf of Mexico offshore platforms account for 16% of U.S. crude oil production and 2.4% of natural gas production, according to the Energy Department. More than 45% of U.S. refining capacity and 51% of gas processing capacity is located along the Gulf coast.
About 2.5 million homes from Maine to Texas are vulnerable to storm surge from at least a Category 2 hurricane. Stronger hurricanes tend to hit the south while they become weaker as they move north. Along the Gulf of Mexico, 3.6 million homes are vulnerable to hurricanes up to Category 4 strength. Only four Category 5 storms have ever hit the continental U.S. in the modern record.