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By the time the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season begins, global warming will have made landfall on the Atlantic.
A last-century melting of the Greenland ice sheet has made the area where Atlantic hurricanes are expected to form a feature of the planet instead of in the ocean.
A strengthening El Niño is also expected to push the waters from the tropical Pacific up to the Atlantic Ocean.
El Niño tends to suppress the waters in the tropical Pacific and make them closer to the surface, where they are cold enough to stimulate tropical storms.
Looking back to 1980, each of the eight average years from 1950 to 2000 had fewer hurricanes than the previous year.
However, since 2011, these figures have varied a little in comparison to years with major hurricanes.
“Looking ahead, with record global warming, we expect the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) will increase and become more disruptive for the Atlantic hurricane season,” AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Elliot Abrams said.
While the ENSO produces a natural cooling effect on the region, it will be much stronger in 2019, which could cause the waters to be significantly warmer to fuel tropical storms.
Most research suggests that human-caused global warming will make coastal waters and coastlines hotter. An increase in this heat in coastal waters will accelerate the development of hurricanes.
As warmer water expands, thus heating coastal areas, storms are also likely to be stronger because the smaller storm cells formed there will pick up the energy from the warmer waters.
Following the warm waters from the open Atlantic are large areas of wind shear, which can be a key ingredient in storm formation.
Warmer surface waters will increase the likelihood of wind shear, so any activity this season will be inhibited.
“Once we reach the Gulf of Mexico, we are likely to see dry air that does not often develop in the southwestern Atlantic just ahead of the Gulf of Mexico,” Abrams said.
Typically, the storm activity will be strongest off the U.S. Gulf Coast beginning on the west coast, through the northeastern U.S. and Georgia. However, it will be later into the season before this begins to make a major impact.
Once it reaches the mid-Atlantic, the storms will be able to clip the coast as weak nor’easters. However, if any intensify, these slow-moving storms could impact areas north of the coast.
There is no set way to predict the exact effect this will have on a hurricane season. But areas where the surface waters are often colder due to sea ice, could see an uptick.
The warm waters should do the trick for fewer storms to form and develop, with fewer hurricanes making landfall across the region.
However, an increase in storm activity could have an impact.
Abrams’ meteorological perspective is that from the early part of the season until the end of the season, it is essential to monitor storms and the storm systems that could be stronger than predicted.
AccuWeather Meteorologist Alex Sosnowski commented, “I would not be surprised if we see quite a few relatively strong hurricanes that do show up this season. Some of the record periods for hurricanes around the globe may be falling as stronger hurricanes are popping up closer to home.”
For every six strong hurricanes that develop this year, the world will lose one healthy year.