While the remnants of Kyle race to Europe and the remnants of Josephine dissolve east of the Bahamas, meteorologists at the National Hurricane Center (NHC) in Miami, Florida are keeping their eyes on new areas of concern. In the NHC’s latest Tropical Outlook, meteorologists there are pointing out the potential for tropical cyclone development in the central and eastern Atlantic. Over time, these systems could threaten the U.S. coastline.
According to the NHC, shower and thunderstorm activity has increased in association with a fast-moving tropical wave located about 700 miles east of the Windward Islands. This system is expected to move westward at about 20 mph during the next few days, and that fast speed is likely to limit significant development while the system approaches the Windward and southern Leeward Islands Monday, and moves across the eastern Caribbean Sea on Tuesday. However, after that time, the system is expected to move more slowly westward across the central and western Caribbean Sea, and upper-level winds could be conducive for development during the middle to latter part of this week. Steering currents could eventually bring this storm system to the Gulf of Mexico, with threats possible to the U.S. Gulf Coast afterwards.
The second area being monitored for tropical cyclone development is a tropical wave located over the far eastern tropical Atlantic which is producing a large area of cloudiness and showers. According to the NHC, this wave is forecast to move westward at 15 to 20 mph during the next few days, and some development will be possible by the middle to latter part of the week as environmental conditions become more conducive while the system is over the central tropical Atlantic. With time, such a system could threaten the U.S. Gulf or East Coasts.
Computer forecast model guidance also suggests these two areas being monitored are just the beginning of a very active period in the Atlantic. As an example, the European ECMWF forecast model is suggesting that there may be upwards of 4 tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic at once within the next two weeks.
Forecasters are also concerned about a return to an exceptionally active hurricane season in the Atlantic basin. In recent days, experts with Colorado State University’s (CSU) Tropical Meteorology Project and NOAA have each released updated hurricane season outlooks reflecting an even busier expected outcome for an already forecast busy season. The CSU outlook update is calling for an additional 5 major hurricanes in the coming weeks while the NOAA update is now calling for more tropical storms and hurricanes than they have ever forecast in any year before.
The 2020 Hurricane Season has been a busy one in the Atlantic, with the most number of named storms so early in the season. According to CSU’s Dr. Phil Klotzbach, “The Atlantic has already generated 25.75 named storm days in 2020 –the third most in the satellite era since 1966 through August 14.” He adds, “The only years with more named storm days through August 14 were 2005 with 39.75 named storm days and 2008 with 29 named storm days”.
With so many threats to the United States already, much of the coast has been under a Tropical Storm or Hurricane Watch or Warning already. Even Hawaii has already been warned this year, which was threatened by Hurricane Douglas just weeks ago. A map produced by the Corpus Christi, Texas National Weather Service office shows the entire U.S. East Coast and much of the western and central Gulf Coast has seen tropical cyclone watches and warnings issued at least once by August 4.
With so many storms and advisories out already, and the ongoing impacts of the COVID-19 global pandemic, experts are concerned that disaster fatigue may be setting in and may not be as prepared as they should for what is likely to be a very active period in the tropics in the coming months.
“We have to be open and honest about the challenges that people face, ” Mike Brennan, Ph.D., told us; he serves as Senior Hurricane Specialist at the National Hurricane Center. “And we need to remind people that the situation of where they lived in June may be different from what it’s going to be related to COVID when the next storm arrives in September. Pay attention to that local situation and your local emergency managers –those are the people that will tell you what you need to do to be prepared for the hurricane in the COVID environment where you live.”
“Repetitiveness of storms becomes an issue, ” says Dr. Uccellini, Director of the National Weather Service. We asked Dr. Uccellini for his thoughts on disaster fatigue and what they’re doing to keep people informed and safe. “We need to be persistent in our messaging. It’s really important that communities don’t let their guard down.” Dr. Uccellini also said this is a “whole community effort, not just the National Weather Service, but one that involves the whole weather enterprise.” Dr. Uccellini says players across the weather enterprise need to rally around a consistent message to “ensure communities don’t let their guards down.” Even with multiple disasters impacting the United States, Dr. Uccellini said it’s important that everyone “be ready and responsive” for what lies ahead.
To be prepared, the weather enterprise is encouraging that everyone to have a Hurricane Action Plan, even if they were already impacted by a tropical cyclone this year. Due to COVID-19, people should also factor the pandemic in their planning and think about extra supplies they may need or restrictions they may encounter when executing a plan or evacuating an area from a hurricane threat. A good Hurricane Action Plan details what you’d do before a hurricane or tropical storm arrives, what you’d do during impact, and what you would do in a storm’s wake.