Climate scientists predict that the next Atlantic hurricane season will likely see an increase in storms this year’s storms, after an active 2018 hurricane season.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecast that there will be 15 to 20 named storms (those with winds of 39 mph or higher) and seven to 10 hurricanes, including two to four major hurricanes (Category 3 and above on the Saffir-Simpson scale of hurricane intensity).
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The majority of hurricanes are of the non-tropical variety, and only seven hurricane have ever occurred in a season after an October start. However, the chance of a second hurricane developing within the first 48 hours of the seasonal start has doubled since 1880, from 2% to 6%, NOAA said.
There were 14 named storms in 2018, including eight hurricanes, two of which made landfall in the US. Hurricane Florence caused widespread damage in North Carolina in September while Hurricane Michael pounded Florida in October.
Along with a larger number of storms being formed this year, the seasonal average is fewer than 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
NOAA’s hurricane expert Dr Gerry Bell said: “During the past decade, five of the 10 most active years on record have occurred in the 21st century.”
The season is most intense in the eastern Pacific, which is surrounded by water warmer than the Atlantic, while the Atlantic basin is warm enough for wind shear to lessen slightly from the previous season.
“Irma will be called the 2017 event [the second strongest storm ever to hit the US], but the 2020 season will be called 2017-X [return to speed],” Bell said.
Bell added that while the atmosphere has to continuously warm in order for hurricanes to form, a long-term decline in the rate of global warming is consistent with the climate dynamics seen in the past 100 years.
“Since the average global warming rate over the past 100 years has been 1.5C, further measures to ramp up global warming will likely raise global sea-level levels by some 1.5m by the end of the century,” he said.
“If we continue with business-as-usual, globally warming temperatures, there will be 1m more people living in regions that will be at risk of severe flooding.”
The Atlantic hurricane season begins in earnest on 1 June and ends in November.