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Forecasters: Hurricane Season Could Start Slow Before Summer Peak

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is two months away, and meteorologists say they expect some overlap with the coronavirus pandemic.

Forecasters at AccuWeather predict we will see low activity in the Atlantic during the early part of the summer, although they believe the peak of hurricane season will have an above-normal rate of activity, says Dan Kottlowski, lead AccuWeather meteorologist.

An average hurricane season has 12 named storms, according to data by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The 2020 season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30. Forecasters are predicting seven to nine hurricanes this year, with two to four of them becoming major hurricanes with maximum sustained wind speeds of greater than 130 mph.

The El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO) system will be weak from April to June, which means that high wind sheer will create difficult conditions for tropical storm development.

By August, ENSO is forecast to turn into a low La Niña event, causing sea surface temperatures to be warmer than normal.

That change, combined with low predicted wind sheer and high surface level temperatures in the Gulf of Mexico and the Atlantic, could lead to more tropical development between August and October.

Experts at the National Hurricane Center say they are ready for the upcoming hurricane season.

“The National Hurricane Center is prepared and we will continue to meet our mission,” says Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist and spokesman for the NHC. “The National Weather Service’s continuity of operations plan ensures that the National Hurricane Center forecast operations are not disrupted for any reason, including COVID-19. This plan is frequently updated and rehearsed to ensure the National Weather Service is ready for any potential scenario.”

In addition, the NHC has contingency plans in place, in the event that forecasters do become sick due to the coronavirus.

“When service backup is required, every effort is made to ensure the transition and service delivery is instant and seamless for customers and partners,” Feltgen says.