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Hurricane season may start early as storm brews off the East Coast

Published May 13th, 2020 3:34PM EDT
hurricane season 2020
Image: AP/REX/Shutterstock

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  • Hurricane season looks to be starting early for a 6th straight year as favorable conditions for storm formation are growing off the East Coast.
  • If the low-pressure area develops into a depression or tropical storm, it will be named Arthur, and mark the start of the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season. 
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Hurricane season usually starts on June 1st in the Atlantic, but you’d never know that by looking at recent storm history. For the past five years, powerful tropical storms have shown their faces well in advance of the “official” start of the season, and as Washington Post reports, it appears as though the same may happen this year.

In a bulletin issued by the National Hurricane Center, a low-pressure disturbance near the Bahamas could produce conditions favorable for a tropical storm. If that comes to fruition, it would be named Arthur, and the Atlantic hurricane season will have officially kicked off roughly two weeks early.

“A broad area of low pressure is expected to develop late this week or early this weekend near or within a couple of hundred miles north of the Bahamas,” the National Hurricane Center’s bulletin explains. “Environmental conditions appear conducive for the gradual development of this system, and a subtropical depression or storm is likely to form this weekend while it moves northeastward over the western Atlantic.”

The NHC says the chances of a depression or storm forming are around 0% over the next two days, but roughly 70% if you extend the timeline out to five days. So, it would seem likely that the storm season will indeed arrive a bit earlier than was expected.

There’s a very clear trend forming here with regards to the formation of the first Atlantic storms year-over-year. Studies have suggested that warming ocean waters are responsible for this increase in storm activity earlier in the year, as well as the increasing strength of the storms that eventually reach land.

The breadth of the official Atlantic hurricane season has also increased dramatically over the decades. Nearly a century ago, storms were expected between June 15th and October 31st. Today, the season stretches from June 1st through November 30th. As we’ve clearly seen over the past half-decade, the start of storm formation is now falling outside of those dates, and the official hurricane window may need further adjustment.

That’s obviously not great news, but what exactly can we do about it? The scientific consensus is that mankind is warming the planet. Ocean temperatures are definitely rising — we’ve seen the effects of that in everything from coral bleaching to the spread of marine species into regions where they’ve never been before — and the storms may be getting more frequent and more powerful as a result.

While we debate whether or not humans are actually responsible for these changes, the storms will likely continue to get worse, arrive earlier, and disrupt more lives than ever before.

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