The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, will be a busy one, producing 13-19 named storms, including six-10 hurricanes, with up to six of them major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher), according to forecasters at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center. 

“The combination of several climate factors is driving the strong likelihood for above—normal activity in the Atlantic this year,” NOAA said Thursday. “El Niño Southern Oscillation conditions are expected to either remain neutral or to trend toward La Niña, meaning there will not be an El Niño present to suppress hurricane activity.

“Also, warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, coupled with reduced vertical wind shear, weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds, and an enhanced west African monsoon all increase the likelihood for an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season.”

NOAA’s forecast dovetails with an earlier prognostication by AccuWeather meteorologists, who also expect an above-average season.

The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season was tied with 1969 as the fourth most-active hurricane season on record with 18 named storms. Oil and natural gas-impacting storms during the year included Hurricane Barry in July, and Hurricane Dorian and Tropical Storm Imelda in September. Barry took a 276,000 b/d bite out of U.S. crude oil production in July, the largest decline in monthly production in more than a decade.

Since President Trump took office, the Interior Department has tried opening more of the offshore by pursuing a strategy of offering every available unleased area in the Gulf of Mexico (GOM). However the area-wide auctions, which reversed years of leasing in specific targeted regions, have to date drawn limited interest from operators. 

Oil and natural gas prospects in the GOM drew bids from 22 operators in a federal lease sale this spring, but whether it was the coronavirus or slumping oil prices, interest was not strong in the sixth sale under the 2017-2022 Outer Continental Shelf Oil and Gas Leasing Program as it has been in recent years.

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season got an early start this week when Tropical Storm Arthur brought squalls to the North Carolina Coast.