This Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be the worst since Katrina in 2005

Hurricane Hanna approaching the Texas coast on July 25, 2020. PHOTO: NOAA

NEW YORK (BLOOMBERG) - The Atlantic hurricane season probably will go from bad to worse, researchers from Colorado State University said.

The university, which pioneered Atlantic seasonal forecasting almost four decades ago, boosted its storm forecast to 24 on the eve of the season's most-active phase. That would trail only 2005 when a record 28 storms formed, including Katrina, which devastated New Orleans.

Researchers predicted 20 in July.

"We have increased our forecast and now call for an extremely active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season," lead author Phil Klotzbach and his colleagues said in the forecast. "We anticipate an above-normal probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental US coastline and in the Caribbean."

Five out of the first nine storms in 2020 have hit the contiguous US including Hurricane Isaias, which left a path of destruction across New York and the Northeast on Tuesday (Aug 4) after roaring ashore in North Carolina. Both milestones haven't been reached this quickly in records dating to 1851. The most storms ever to pummel the US was nine in 1916.

An average season, which runs from June 1 to Nov 30, produces 12 named systems. A cyclone gets a name when it reaches tropical storm strength with winds of 63 kilometres per hour.

Hurricanes and tropical storms are closely watched because they can roil energy and agriculture markets. The US Gulf accounts for 16 per cent of domestic crude production and 2.4 per cent of natural gas output.

Florida is the largest state orange grower. At least US$1.8 trillion (S$2.47 trillion) of real estate and 7.3 million homes are along the vulnerable US coastline, according to CoreLogic.

The storms can also affect retail, insurance and transportation industries.

In addition to Isaias, Hurricane Hanna struck Texas last month, and Tropical Storm Cristobal forced the evacuation of offshore energy platforms in the Gulf and shut in more than one-third of all oil and gas production there.

The odds the US will get hit with a major hurricane, Category 3 or higher on the five-step Saffir-Simpson scale, are 76 per cent, up from 69 per cent in July, the university analysts said. The 2020 season probably will end with 12 hurricanes and five major hurricanes. The numbers include the nine systems that have already formed.

The Atlantic is "much warmer than normal" and wind shear, which can tear apart a storm's structure, has decreased well below average, the analysts said.

A La Nina pattern that cools the Pacific may form soon, altering weather and making storms more likely in the Atlantic.

People in the US, Mexico and across the Caribbean need to be on guard, Klotzbach said. "Coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them."

Colorado State issues a forecast in April followed by three updates, concluding with Wednesday's outlook. Since 2015, the university's August forecast has been lower than the number of storms that eventually formed.

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.