Can 2020 be Over Yet?


Alia Abbas

The devastation from that last few hurricane seasons has left scars on many on the coast, but will this one impact more than just the coast? (Photo courtesy of Alia Abbas)

Arthur, Bertha, Cristobal, Dolly, Edouard, Fay, Gonzalo, Hanna, Isaias, Josephine, Kyle, Laura, Marco, Nana, Omar, Paulette, Rene, Sally, Teddy, Vicky, and Wilfred. These are the names of the 2020 Atlantic Tropical Cyclones. Yes, that’s a lot, but we are going to find out if they really will all visit us this hurricane season.

Hold on, this isn’t another Coronavirus article, trust me. All that has been circulating the news this past month was primarily focused on the public health crisis. Although much as it is impacting our lives currently, we need to prepare ourselves for another possible crisis. That’s right, 2020 isn’t over yet.

As the first few forecasts have been released for the 2020 Atlantic Hurricane season, which starts on June first, several articles over-emphasized the possible impacts. I am not your usual WYFF morning weather woman, so I decided to settle with the experts myself.

According to a recent Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project, a total of 16 named storms, eight hurricanes, and four major hurricanes are expected this season. This is above the 30-year average, which is six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

Looking at last year’s outlook of forecasts, we had a total of 18 storms named, 8 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. However, according to NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division statistics regarding the actual average that is collected in the aftermath, the U.S. averages one to two hurricane landfalls each season.

This year might be an exception as the weather indications say otherwise to NOAA’s average. “We anticipate that the 2020 Atlantic Basin Hurricane season will have above-normal activity,” said the project’s leader Dr. Phil Klotzbach.

But before you go ahead and groan about how 2020 is only getting worse, it actually might not. Although the CSU outlook is based on more than 30 years of statistical factors combined with data of sea-level pressures and sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific oceans, other experts say the season might not be as bad.

“As of right now the data is not accurate, because it is too early. Right now it’s neutral, and so we usually wait until June or July for that hard data we can count on” said a chair and professor of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of North Carolina Asheville, Dr. Christopher Henno.

Why do some experts say the season will be “above normal”, while others say otherwise? A tweet by Klotzbach early April said, “The tropical and subtropical Atlantic generally is warmer than normal.” Just like Hennon had said, the ocean temperatures in April aren’t going to help boost or curtail tropical storms. It only suggests that the basin in which the hurricanes develop is warmer than the average.

First of all, why is there a concern about warm water temperature anyways? Well to fuel a storm, warm water is the heat energy to create moisture, thus a greater intensity of the storm. “This is why warming ocean temperatures matters; it’s like adding fuel to a fire and taking the world, literally, by storm,” said a representative from NOAA.

This led to our question on whether this warm water was due to climate change or our inactiveness in large scale efforts for climate change action. “It’s actually very difficult to see a connection between hurricanes and climate change; it’s seasonal so it depends on annual rainfall, precipitation, and whatnot,” said Dr. Hennon.

The number and strength of each season is variable year to year, which can make it difficult to detect trends. Many experts have different opinions and point at several distinct research to support themselves. For example, many other scientists have stated that the trends since the 1970s have become more intensifying, including higher wind speeds and more precipitation with the cutting edge technology introduced in 1970. Due to a limited amount of data before the 1970s, this further complicates the study of long-term trends, so it is difficult to say there is a connection between climate change and hurricane storms. Although, recent studies by Yale University’s climate connections and other sources have found a growing correlation. All these proposals only demonstrate how there is still a debate with conflicting views on whether there is a possible correlation, connection, or neither between hurricanes and climate change.

Lastly, regarding the economy, which is at a frugal and uncertain state, we wondered how the outcome of the seasons might affect the existing state of the economy during the pandemic. In the past, we have seen destructive hurricanes put coastal communities at risk, such as 2017’s devastating Hurricane Harvey, which has left scars for places like Puerto Rico and Texas.

“Fortunately [hurricane season] does not ramp up until late August, and the economic state depends on how the pandemic plays out until then,” said Dr. Hennon.

Although we are amidst a crisis, the unforeseeable future depends on how we take precautions now and then to prepare for the rest of the year. It is important to not get ahead of ourselves and to turn to reliable sources and leading experts in the fields who can sensitize us with factuality.