The COVID-19 global pandemic has impacted countries, communities, and families across the world. Here in Florida, not only are we learning to adjust and operate within the new “normal”, we also have to be aware of the upcoming 2020 Hurricane Season. At Battaglia, Ross, Dicus & McQuaid, P.A., St. Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon Douglas handles all types of losses associated with homeowner’s insurance claims, including hurricane losses. Reviewing your hurricane preparedness plan before the hurricanes start forming is best practice. Closely monitoring developing systems and forecasts is also critical. But what are the experts saying about how active the 2020 Hurricane Season will be?
Hurricane Season Forecast from The Weather Company
According to www.weather.com,, the hurricane outlook as predicted by The Weather Company for the Atlantic Basin is as follows:
- 18 Total Named Storms
- 9 Hurricanes
- 4 Major Hurricanes (Category 3 or Higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale)
To put this in perspective, the 30 year average is 13 named storms, with 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. The Weather Company’s prediction indicates an above average 2020 Hurricane Season which technically begins June 1, 2020 and runs through November 30, 2020. Storms can sometimes develop outside of hurricane season but these are more of a rarity (e.g. Subtropical Storm Andrea in May, 2019, Tropical Storm Alberto in May, 2018 and Tropical Storm Arlene in April, 2017).
The Weather Company’s chief meteorologist, Dr. Todd Crawford developed the forecast and said, “weighing all of the factors, we have started the bidding at 18 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes for the 2020 North Atlantic tropical season.” While the forecasted number of named storms is higher than average, the main data point is how many of these named storms will make landfall and impact home and business owners. This of course is impossible to predict. For example, the 2010 North Atlantic Hurricane Season was tied for the third most active Atlantic Hurricane Seasons as far as named storms are concerned (with 19 named storms); however, no hurricanes made landfall in the United States. In Contrast, 2017 was the 5th most active North Atlantic Hurricane Season at 17 named storms, with 3 major hurricanes (Harvey, Irma, and Maria) impacting the United States and Puerto Rico. With these numbers in mind and the utter unpredictable nature of whether any hurricanes will impact the United States, knowledge and preparation are keys to making sure your family and your property are protected.
El Nino-Southern Oscillation Hurricane Season Forecast
One of the many factors that are considered by forecasters, including Dr. Crawford at The Weather Company, is the status of the El Nino-Southern Oscillation (ENSO). This phenomenon is often referred to just as “El Nino”, or its opposite, “La Nina”. El Nino and La Nina are opposite phases of the ENSO which is a scientific term describing ocean and atmospheric temperature variations in the east central equatorial Pacific Ocean. El Nino is known as the warm phase with La Nina being the cold phase. All forecasters agree that predicting the ENSO is very difficult and accordingly, its impact on hurricane forecasts should be viewed with this caveat in mind. Historically, the North Atlantic Hurricane Season is more active when the ENSO is in a La Nina period. The cool waters of the eastern Pacific Ocean typically cause less wind shear in the Atlantic. Generally, more wind shear creates less favorable conditions for hurricane development. Additionally, La Nina is associated with causing weaker low-level winds in the Caribbean Sea. Looking at the forecasts for ENSO during the 2020 Hurricane season shows mostly an agreement across the experts suggesting a neutral ENSO (neither El Nino or La Nina) during the first part of the 2020 Hurricane season with a slight uptick in probability of La Nina during the second part of the 2020 Hurricane Season. For some perspective, 2010 was a La Nina year as was 2011. Both 2010 and 2011 are tied for the third most active North Atlantic Hurricane seasons with both seasons having 19 named storms. La Nina conditions also occurred during the second half of the 2017 Hurricane Season which saw Harvey, Irma and Maria develop and have devastating impacts for the United States and Puerto Rico.
How the Sea Surface Temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean Affects Hurricane Season
In addition to the ENSO, one variable that we commonly hear forecasters discuss is the sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean. Unlike the ENSO unpredictability, the Atlantic sea surface temperatures correlate somewhat well with forecasting the activity level of any given hurricane season. Higher sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic foretell a more active season for hurricanes. Regarding the 2020 Hurricane season, Dr. Crawford was quoted as saying the sea surface temperatures are very warm thus “supporting a big season”. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration provides daily sea surface temperature analysis which can be accessed here.
The Sahara Desert’s Affect on Hurricane Season
Another factor, which is not so often discussed in hurricane development and forecasting, is the Sahara Desert. The hot, dry desert air of the Sahara Desert interacts with the cooler and wetter air coming from the region south of the Sahara Desert which creates a high altitude wind named the African Easterly Jet. The African Easterly Jet is unstable and thus prone to helping the developments of north to south waves of weather which move westward off the coast of Africa. These waves of weather can develop into a hurricane provided they encounter the correct conditions. Take a look at the diagram below to see that many hurricanes begin at the intersection of the Sahara Desert and the green forests which border it to the south.
Understanding Your Insurance Policy
As the 2020 Hurricane Season rapidly approaches while the United States is still battling the COVID-19 crisis, homeowners and businesses should take time to be prepared for the active hurricane season the forecasters have predicted. Be sure that you and your family have a hurricane preparedness plan in place. Be sure that you have easy access to your insurance information and know how to report a claim. The days and weeks following a hurricane can be chaotic, stressful and downright frightening. Know that you will be required to comply with the conditions of your insurance policy when reporting your claim. Take time now to get familiar with your reporting and mitigation obligations. If you have any questions about this upcoming Hurricane Season or need help understanding your insurance policy, contact St. Petersburg Property Damage Attorney Jonathon Douglas for a free consultation.