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BATTEN DOWN

The US is in for a brutal—and expensive—hurricane season

NOAA
Tropical Storm Arthur petered out near Bermuda after dumping rain on North Carolina.
  • Tim McDonnell
By Tim McDonnell

Climate reporter

A potent combination of ocean conditions brewing in both the Pacific and Atlantic have climate scientists worried that 2020 could be one of the most active hurricane seasons on record. And with recovery and rebuilding resources stretched thin by the coronavirus pandemic, the economic toll of those storms that make landfall could be more painful than usual.

In a seasonal forecast released today, the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration projected a 60% chance of an above-average Atlantic hurricane season. The agency is anticipating up to 19 storms big enough to merit a name, of which up to 10 may grow into hurricanes. (The average since the 1980s has been 13 such storms, about half growing into hurricanes.)

The bulk of those storms are likely to form between August and October. It’s too soon to know how many will make landfall, says Suzana Camargo, a climate scientist at Columbia University, because the atmospheric conditions that influence their paths are much less predictable than the ocean conditions that make them form. 

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