Forecasters predict near-normal Central Pacific hurricane season

  • Hurricane Lane is seen Aug. 22, 2018, from the International Space Station. RICKY ARNOLD/NASA photo/file

Forecasters are calling for normal to below-normal tropical cyclone activity within the Central Pacific this hurricane season.

Two to six tropical cyclones — a category that includes depressions, storms and hurricanes — are expected to pass through the basin this year, said Chris Brenchley, director at NOAA’s Central Pacific Hurricane Center in Honolulu. The 2020 Central Pacific hurricane season starts June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

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The basin, which normally sees four to five cyclones develop, spans an area north of the equator from 140 degrees west longitude to the International Date Line. The number of storms has ranged from zero, most recently as 1979, to as many as 11 in 1992 and 1994, and 16 in 2015.

In the center’s outlook, issued Wednesday, forecasters said there is a 75% chance of a near- to below-normal season and normal season, and a 25% chance of an above-normal season.

The prediction is based on currently neutral La Nina/El Nino conditions persisting through early fall and possibly tilting toward La Nina conditions toward the end of the year, said Brenchley. El Nino correlates with warmer ocean temperatures and reduced vertical shear that can cause increased storm activity while La Nina features cooler waters and historically has produced below normal activity seasons.

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Last year, forecasters also called for an above-normal season with five to eight tropical cyclones impacting the basin. Four tropical cyclones passed through the Central Pacific in 2019 with only one reaching hurricane strength.

Named Central Pacific tropical cyclones for 2020 will begin with “Hone,” according to the center.

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