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The earliest ever third-named tropical storm, prelude of an active Atlantic hurricane season

Esteban Abellan, Sunday June 7, 2020 - 11:16 EST

The 2020 hurricane season in the Atlantic has just kicked off with 3 storms already and models indicate that it should be an above-average season this year.

Tropical Depression Cristobal, which impacted southeastern Mexico and Central America with torrential rains over the last few days, is now tracking towards the Gulf Coast of the United States upgraded to a tropical storm. Louisiana, where it is expected to make landfall, has declared a state of emergency although heavy rainfall is also predicted nearby states.   

Image: forecast accumulated rainfall from Sunday 7th to Tuesday 9th associated with the tropical storm Cristobal, according to the ECMWF-HRES model.

Although the Atlantic hurricane season runs from 1st June to 30th November, 2 tropical storms, Arthur and Bertha, hit the Bahamas and Florida, respectively, in May. As a result, Cristobal becomes the third named storm in the Caribbean, which has broken a record for this early in the season. 

Models have been consistently predicting a very active season over the last few months and what we have seen so far appears to confirm the outlooks. The National Atmospheric and Oceanic Administration predicts 13-19 named storms during this season. Of those storms, 6-10 are forecast to become hurricanes, and 2-4 are predicted to reach Category 3 or higher. This projection represents an above-average season, which usually sees 12 storms and 6 hurricanes.

But, why do all models agree with a busy hurricane season ahead? First, climate models suggest that El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions should either remain neutral or to trend toward La Niña. Generally, El Niño years are associated with more tropical storms in the eastern Pacific and a decrease in the Atlantic. Second, warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures seen across the region over the last months are expected to contribute to tropical cyclone development. Another ingredient to increase the likelihood of an unusually active hurricane season is the weakening of trade winds, which reduces the vertical wind shear making the storm grow faster.

So, if you are a big fan of tropical cyclones, be sure to keep an eye on the Atlantic basin over the coming months.

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