Even though the official start to the Atlantic Ocean hurricane season is June 1, May has not been shy to tropical systems. Tropical Storm Bertha formed and made landfall off the South Carolina coast Wednesday, putting 2020 in unusual territory.
The storm, which was responsible for heavy rains in Florida during Memorial Day weekend, including a soggy Sunday afternoon for the charity 'The Match 2' golf tournament, turned into Bertha, just east of Charleston, South Carolina at 8 a.m. Wednesday. Bertha then made landfall 20 miles east of Charleston around 9:30 a.m., with maximum sustained winds of 50 mph.
This is the fifth time in six years that a named tropical system has formed before the start of hurricane season. Tropical Storm Arthur, which formed May 16, made that possible.
However, two named storms before Junee 1 puts the 2020 season into more unusual territory. Going back to the 1700s, there have only been six times when this has happened according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration: 2016, 2012, 1951, 1908 and 1887. Never has there been three storms to form before this time.
In all years except one, seasons with two tropical storm or greater systems before June 1 has above average hurricane activity. 2012 and 1887, are tied for the third most active season on record. However, it should be noted that there is no clear scientific link between an early start to hurricane season and an active season ahead.
That being said, Colorado State University's hurricane forecast does indicate a strong potential for a more active than usual season.
The forecasted active season also comes with an "above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline," read the report, which was released April 2. There is a 45% chance of an East Coast landfall, much higher than the 31% average.
2020 hurricane season now forecasted to be the second most active in Aug. update
The Aug. 5 Atlantic Hurricane season update from Colorado State University (CSU) forecasts in total tropical activity take a large step up, enough to make the 2020 hurricane season the second most active on record.
As of Aug. 5, nine named storms have formed in the Atlantic Hurricane basin, which includes the Gulf of Mexico. That is on pace to break the record, last set in 2005. Given this, CSU forecasts 24, named tropical storms or hurricanes to occur. That is an increase from the 20 last predicted in the July update. Out of the 24, 12 hurricanes and 5 major, category 3 or greater (at least 111 mph sustained winds) are forecasted.
In July, the number of forecasted hurricanes and major hurricanes were 19 and 9, respectively.
Comparison of recently-released @ColoradoStateU and @NOAA seasonal #hurricane forecasts for the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. Both call for very active season - CSU forecast generally slightly to somewhat higher than midpoint of NOAA range. pic.twitter.com/AiM0caox5k— Philip Klotzbach (@philklotzbach) August 6, 2020
The 1981-2010 average of activity includes 12.1 tropical storms, 6.4 hurricanes and 2.7 major hurricanes, respectively.
There still remains an above average risk of a major hurricane making landfall on the East Coast of the United States, including the Florida Peninsula. The 49% chance is an increase from 45% in the July update. On average, there has been a 31% probability of a strike in the last century.
CSU attributes warmer than average waters in the subtropical Atlantic Ocean, slightly warmer than average waters in the tropical Atlantic as reasons for the active forecast. Furthermore, there's a lack of wind shear, or change of winds with height, which can rip storms apart. A transition from the current El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) neutral state to a La Nina late in the summer puts more confidence that wind shear will remain light.
Tropical cyclone names rotate every six years. Exceptionally notable hurricane names, such as Sandy, become retired by the World Meteorological Organization. However, no names were retired in 2014, meaning 2020 will have the same list as then.
Arthur - Used
It's the sixth year in a row that a named tropical system has developed in the Atlantic Hurricane Basin before the June 1 official start.
Bertha - Used
Tropical Storm Bertha is the second tropical storm or greater storm to have formed in the Atlantic Hurricane basin before the official start June 1. This is only the sixth time since records have been kept in the 1700s that two tropical storm or greater storms have formed before the start.
Cristobal - Used
Dolly - Used
Dolly was the third earliest fourth named (D storm) storm in Atlantic Hurricane history, which goes back to 1851. It also flared up further north than any tropical storm before July 1 in recorded history, according to Sam Lilo, postdoctoral researcher at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
#Dolly has formed in the North Atlantic - the 3rd earliest 4th Atlantic named storm formation on record (since 1851). Danielle is earliest on 6/20/2016. Debby is 2nd earliest on 6/23/2012 at 12 UTC. Dolly in 2020 formed on June 23 at 1615 UTC. #hurricane pic.twitter.com/1Ha6ZnxHqc— Philip Klotzbach (@philklotzbach) June 23, 2020
Edouard - Used
The Atlantic Hurricane season continued its blistering pace. Edouard, which developed July 6, was the earliest fifth named (with the letter "E") storm in Atlantic Hurricane history, which goes back to 1851. This is according to Philip Klotzbach, Meteorologist at Colorado State University, who issues a highly reputable hurricane forecast each year and is used by The Press.
The previous record was held in 2005 with Emily, which occurred on July 12. 2005 holds the record for the most active hurricane season on record in the Atlantic Hurricane basin, with 27 named storms.
However, all of the storms to this point have all been tropical storms. Some, like Edouard, likely would not have even been noticed before the satellite era, as they were out to sea and may have been missed by shipping routes.
Fay - Used
Tropical Storm Fay will go in the record books for multiple reasons.
- It is the tenth tropical storm or hurricane to make landfall in New Jersey since 1900.
- It made landfall just south of Holgate, on Long Beach Island, this is, incredibly, about ten miles away from where Tropical Storm Irene and Superstorm Sandy made landfall, right near Brigantine.
- Fay was the earliest sixth tropical storm or hurricane to form in the Atlantic Hurricane basin, since records started in 1851. On other words, it was the earliest "F" storm on record.
Gonzalo - Used
Tropical Storm Gonzalo formed as a tropical depression July 21 and turned into a named storm July 22.
Hanna - Used
Tropical Storm Hanna formed Thursday, July 24. That put the 2020 hurricane season in a big lead over the 2005 hurricane season for the quickest, most active start. In 2005, Harvey formed on August 3, putting the 2020 season roughly two weeks ahead of 2005.
According to Retired National Weather Service Meteorologist Jim Eberwine, this was the first time in 22 that there have been eight tropical storms, without any hurricanes. However, its upgrade to a hurricane July 25 meant this streak was broken.
Isaias - Used
The fourth largest power outage event in Atlantic City Electric's history came with Isaias, which passed to the west of New Jersey as a tropical storm.
Isaias continues the blistering pace of the hurricane season, beating out the 2005 season. The "I" storm then, Irene, developed on August 7.
Hurricane Irene would be retired by the World Meteorological Organization in 2011. The storm brought power outages to over 100,000 in South Jersey, a tornado in Vineland and nearly a foot of rain to the Wildwoods.
This also ties the record for the most number of July tropical systems in a month, at five.
Josephine - In progress
Tropical Storm Josephine formed Aug. 13, after spending time as a Tropical Depression for a couple of days. According to Klotzbach, this is the earliest tenth named storm of the Atlantic Hurricane season on record, best 2005 by nine days.