The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) last Thursday predicted up to 16 more named tropical storms this year, to as many as 25, the highest in the agency’s history.
The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which began on June 1, has already produced nine named tropical storms, two of which reached hurricane strength, including Isaias that lashed the North American Atlantic coast this week.
“We’ve never forecast up to 25 named storms, so this is the first time,” said Gerry Bell, NOAA’s lead hurricane season forecaster in a conference call with reporters.The number of tropical storms could be as few as 19 for the year, Bell said, which would still be above average and leave another nine to develop before the season expires on Nov. 30.
“There could be more (than 25),” he said.
NOAA predicts this year’s warm ocean waters will generate between seven and 11 hurricanes, with six becoming major hurricanes packing winds of 111 miles per hour (178 kph).
Seas with high temperatures, which fuel tropical storms, and low-wind shear will combine to make 2020 a very active season, Bell said.
Previously, NOAA forecast 13-19 named storms, including 3-6 major hurricanes. There were 18 named storms last year and 15 in 2018.
An average hurricane season produces 12 named storms including six hurricanes, half of which are major.
NOAA’s forecast is similar to that issued last Wednesday by the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project, which predicts 12 hurricanes, five of them major, from 24 named storms in the current season.
Offshore production in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico accounts for 17% of total U.S. oil output and 5% of total natural gas production, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). Over 45% of U.S. petroleum refining capacity is located along the Gulf Coast, as well as 51% of total U.S. natural gas processing plant capacity, according to EIA.