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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration(NOAA) is forecasting a likely range of 13 to 19 named storms, of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes and 3 to 6 become major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or higher. The forecast is due to cooler ocean conditions in the Pacific and warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea.As for the summer overall, Accuweather, a private weather service, is predicting high heat in the Western U.S., a cool start but then a super-hot end of the summer in the Northeast and Mid-Atlantic, a muggy and rainy summer for the Southeast and Gulf Coast, and cooler and wetter summer in the Midwest and the Plains.
Why This Matters: It could be a disastrous summer. The new climate normal on top of the COVID-19 pandemic will make things challenging everywhere. And as we know, this administration does not exactly excel at crisis management. Just look at their track record on previous hurricanes like Maria, Michael, Florence, Harvey, Irma and Dorian. We have to hope the staff at the White House has emptied his office of sharpies. But wildfires, floods, and drought could be too much for him, and for us too on top of the current crisis.
NOAA is very confident of the “busy” hurricane season because of a combination of several climate factors driving the strong likelihood for above-normal activity in the Atlantic this year, including the ocean temperatures and also “reduced vertical wind shear, weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds, and an enhanced west African monsoon.” We have already seen the first named storm — Arthur — that impacted the weather on the East Coast last weekend. NOAA is working to improve its hurricane forecast models this year using “new data from satellites and radar from NOAA’s coastal Doppler data network to help produce better forecasts of hurricane track and intensity during the critical watch and warning time frame.”
The seasonal forecast for California is concerning — Accuweather is predicting northern California and the Rockies to experience severe drought conditions in the late summer and early fall, and Southern California and the desert Southwest is already seeing high heat and no rain. These areas are already dry due to lower than average precipitation last winter, and persistent dry weather will also increase the likelihood of wildfires, with an early start expected for Northern California and the interior Northwest, as well as water restrictions into the fall. Meanwhile the Gulf Coast will be a soggy wet mess. The lead long-range forecaster at Accuweather, Paul Pastelok, said “The risk this year is the Gulf of Mexico. Everything that we look at — past years, modeling, you name it — suggests that the Gulf Coast is going to be active.” In the northeast, things will start out wet and chilly as the spring has been, but there will be plenty of summer heat as the season progresses into July and August.
Why This Matters: Hurricane season really gets serious only now, so the worst is still ahead of us. And the revised forecast is a big increase over what had been forecast at the beginning of the season when NOAA said it there was a 70% chance of 13 to 19 named storms.
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