Hurricane season is officially underway and continues through the month of November. As AccuWeather’s lead hurricane expert, I’m seeing a more active than normal Atlantic hurricane season this year with 14-20 tropical storms, seven to 11 possible hurricanes and four to six major hurricanes becoming a Category 3 or higher. On Thursday, June 18 at 1pm Eastern, I’ll be available for an exclusive opportunity to answer your questions about this year’s hurricane forecast, and discuss how it compares to previous hurricane seasons and the heightened awareness around safety and preparedness this year when looking through a COVID-19 lens.

Proof: https://i.redd.it/blizv31ie4551.jpg

Comments: 714 • Responses: 50  • Date: 

AleWatcher712 karma

What are your thoughts on the attempts to privatize your industry?

helicityman362 karma

It will never happen. Private Industry fills the void of government not being able to respond to every industrial need. The general public has access to all kinds of weather information but it will be the government that will issue the public watches and warnings that will tell people to evacuate. There's too much of a litigation issue for the Private sector.

d17m476 karma

Have you ever flown on the airplanes that fly into the hurricanes?

helicityman619 karma

No I have not. It's on my bucket list but you have to have special permission to do so. If I pushed the issue I could probably get a slot. But I have to tried that just yet.

igabeup416 karma

what indicators that you look at that led you to predict a more active season?

helicityman676 karma

We have been expecting the climate pattern to go from a weak El Nino, warm sea surface temps in the Pacific, to normal temps then to cooler sea surface temperatures during the summer. This pattern causes the upper level westerly winds to retreat northward leading to less frequent episodes of shear. Sea surface temperatures in most of the Gulf of Mexico, across the Caribbean and across much of the tropical Atlantic are warmer than normal already and climate models show abnormally warm water through November. Another new issue is that rainfall over key areas of the Sahel in western Africa are reporting above normal rainfall. Some stations are reporting abnormally high rainfall. That suggests the East African Jet that brings tropical waves off the west coast of Africa is more active than normal. These and plus projected wind flow along an south of 15 north point to a very active season . This lines up with past active seasons.

dabyathatsme181 karma

How do you believe COVID-19 will impact the ability to create safe hurricane shelters? Are there any plans or guidance in place?

helicityman256 karma

I believe local officials are addressing this and a lot of major cities already have detailed plans (Houston Texas). If you live along the coast please check with your local officials on what has changed. Some people may not evacuate due to the fear of being cooped up with other people. That is where the idea of putting evacuees into hotels well inland from the coast. I advise following your local official's guidance. If they tell you to evacuate do so and ask for help, But please get this figured out before the storm forms. Have a detailed hurricane plan in place.

BranHamilton1904144 karma

Were you wanting to be a lead hurricane expert when entering the field or did a series of events lead you to becoming one?

helicityman297 karma

Very good question. I got my degree in Meteorology at Purdue thinking I would be drawn into severe storms, tornadoes and severe thunderstorms which I witnessed first hand as a kid growing up on a farm in central Indiana. But once in college I discovered tropical weather. I took two graduate level tropical meteorology courses offered at Purdue and did very well. So, when I started working at AccuWeather after college I got lots of opportunity to work with clients impacted by Hurricanes. In fact my first hurricane I had to deal with was Belle in the fall of 1976.

ChocolateMonkeyBird114 karma

Thank you for doing this!

Do you believe climate change is already impacting the variables (particularly sea temperature) in a meaningful way and contributing to your projection of how active this (or any) hurricane season will be?

helicityman201 karma

There's no doubt in my mind climate change is leading to warmer ocean water temperatures. The oceans are what we call "heat sinks" they absorb additional heat in the atmosphere to allow the atmosphere to be be more balanced. This might not necessarily cause there to be more storms. But it could be causing some storms to wrap up faster and become more intense.

riccobd101 karma

What exactly constitutes a hurricane? And, why do they only happen in certain parts of the planet?

helicityman196 karma

Hurricanes form within the tropics due to the availability of warm water and usually moist air through the vertical. Hurricanes start out as blobs of thunderstorms that develop a rotation due to the earth's rotation, just as we see with most storms. However, hurricanes derive their energy due to the what we call latent heat release when clouds build and create rain. When rain happens the process gives off heat energy and that drives the hurricane engine. This is why hurricanes have a warm core. Storms that occur in the more northern latitudes have a cold core and derive their energy from temperature contrasts.

hurtsdonut_66 karma

TIL: hurricanes rotate because of the Earth's rotation. Do they spin counter clockwise and typhoons spin clockwise?

helicityman132 karma

Typhoons occur in the northern hemisphere they turn counter- clockwise. Cyclones, the same as hurricanes and typhoons, in the southern hemisphere turn clockwise.

NerfHerder4life90 karma

Central Floridian here. How much longer do you think it before the storms are to strong to live in Florida year round or at all?

helicityman118 karma

Depends on people's tolerance. Those who suffered through Michael probably think differently now. But what I have learned is that people forget and there is plenty of people up north willing to gamble living in a warm tropical climate. I don't think the threat will be bad enough to stop the millions of people coming south for a warmer climate.

jwuphysics69 karma

In astrophysics, we try to simulate galaxies by using physical models down to the resolution limit (e.g., grid spacings or particle masses), and then we use "subgrid" prescriptions -- usually calibrated to empirical data -- in order to patch our simulations at smaller scales. This is obviously super simplified but I hope it makes sense. Do you use "subgrid" models in meteorology forecasting or cyclogenesis models?

If so, how do you have enough data to properly tune your models? (I'm comparing the ~1000 hurricanes observed during in the satellite era against the ~billions of galaxies imaged by telescopes.)

helicityman95 karma

Yes, in fact the spiral galaxies look very similar to big hurricanes. The data uses is an issue. But with satellite derived data and aircraft data we end up having much better simulations of hurricanes. A mode we use is the HWRF. This is a meso-scale model that does a fair job of showing hurricane development and movement. The real big issue is intensity. Models still suffer from the lack of the intercore data necessary to define a storm's central core. This is the key to forecasting intensity and size of a hurricane. Keep in mind that galaxies take a long time to form. Hurricanes develop much faster. But some of the physics is similar. Also hurricanes need that rotation of the earth to maintain their rotation. My question what gets a galaxy to start rotating?

Gudodad69 karma

Lately named storms have been forming before the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1st. Do you think we will ever see the official start be moved earlier into May like the Pacific hurricane season?

helicityman82 karma

It's possible. But when you look at the long term averages June 1 still makes sense at this point. But it could be bumped up to maybe May 15 like the East Pacific.

Jrnm56 karma

Haven’t we had enough this year?

helicityman68 karma

Yes. I agree

d17m49 karma

Did you know the dust from Africa was headed this way, was it considered in the initial forecast of a very active season?

helicityman88 karma

African dust is fairly common during June and July, sometimes into early August. This is why sometimes the season takes a snooze due to the dry air and dust suppressing thunderstorm development necessary for lowering surface pressure and helping a disturbance to spin up,

paulie_crommie21 karma

Is this more of an indication or is the dust a cause of a more active season?

helicityman49 karma

The dust indicates an active East African Jet and even though it kicks up dust over northwest Africa it produces heavy rainfall over the southwest part of the continent a precursor to an active season.

facemagoo41 karma

Why does a hurricane lose strength once it hits land?

helicityman76 karma

Friction and the loss of loss of deep moisture. The faster a hurricane moves on land the longer it survives as a tropical storm. This is why slow movers die sooner.

humanextraordinaire31 karma

Do you think there should be additional ways to classify hurricanes? Maybe something that includes speed and rainfall amounts? It seems like a slow moving storm that dumps huge amounts of rain can be just as, if not more devastating to some areas (like Harvey).

helicityman38 karma

AccuWeather does have another classification after a storm moves inland and no longer considered a tropical storm. We use the term Tropical Rainstorm for systems that no longer have the wind but have the dangerous rainfall. Harvey maintained it's tropical character while dumping huge amounts of rainfall. Several storms have done this to some degree to different parts of the US like Agnes in 1976, and Florence in 2016.

LacAttack26 karma

What is something most people don't know in order to prepare for a Hurricane?

helicityman53 karma

Hurricanes kill mostly due to water not wind. You should prepare for the surge and inland flooding. Sure wind will cause damage and some deaths but more people die from water.

SwimmingBreadfruit23 karma

How much of an anomaly was Hurricane Dorian and what is the likelihood of seeing hurricanes of similar magnitude in the near future?

helicityman45 karma

Dorian ranked as one of the strongest and perhaps the strongest hurricane ever to impact land in the Atlantic. Given how warm the oceans are there is potential to see more cat 5 storms. But what is interesting is that has not happened world wide just yet. The Atlantic basin has seen a higher number of high end storms recently but remember not more than a few years ago the US had not been hit by a major hurricane in over 10 year. Just because we could see more high end storms may not necessarily translate to them hitting land more often. However, due to the build up of houses and buildings along the coast any cat 3 or higher storm is going to cause catastrophic damage. My fear is that there will be more cat 3 storms doing more damage.

nicksmom2521 karma

We live in coastal Georgia. How many problematic systems do you predict for the east coast this year? Thanks!

helicityman42 karma

Your regional area has already been impacted by two relatively weak storms. Given the pattern I would prepare for at least one maybe two more that could either threaten or hit your coastal area. We have not idea when or how strong. But statistics and the pattern would favor a threat on your coastal area this season again.

ahhhh_wire16 karma

Could you explain the difference between storms that are designated as tropical storms vs subtropical storms? How do you define when one makes the transition to fully tropical? In addition, what defines the tropical to extratropical transition?

helicityman19 karma

Subtropical storms are storms that have "some" tropical characteristics but are not pure tropical storms. Subtropical storms have a wind field that is much larger than a tropical storm, which has it's wind field more concentrated close to the center. Most subtropical storms also suffer from not having deep tropical moisture and therefore the cloud pattern has large gaps of non-precipitation areas. The transition from tropical to subtropical or even what we call extra-tropical takes place when the wind field no longer is concentrated near the storm's center and the storm becomes asymmetric. It's both a visual and data judgement thing.

artwag10 karma

What causes hurricanes to form off the coast of Africa?

helicityman11 karma

Hurricanes form within the tropics due to the availability of warm water and usually moist air through the vertical. Hurricanes start out as blobs of thunderstorms that develop a rotation due to the earth's rotation, just as we see with most storms. However, hurricanes derive their energy due to the what we call latent heat release when clouds build and create rain. When rain happens the process gives off heat energy and that drives the hurricane engine. This is why hurricanes have a warm core. Storms that occur in the more northern latitudes have a cold core and derive their energy from temperature contrasts.

Duke_UK10 karma

What’s the purpose of a “potential tropical cyclone” designation? Isnt that what a tropical depression is? Why do we need both?

Also: where did you go to school and what did you study to end up where you are today?

helicityman19 karma

A Potential Tropical Cyclone simply means the storm has not fully formed yet, no consistent rotation and pressure is not falling. However, computer models are showing development. A system is given this designation so that watches and warnings can be issued in advance of a storm that could make landfall within a couple of days.

rothscorn10 karma

Are the higher temps in the Arctic indicative of higher ocean temps overall or will the influence on the hurricane season be a result of the polar systems formed therein?

helicityman15 karma

The polar systems will help generate shear and there is some research suggesting the wind flow going from the polar regions into or near the tropics could create more episodes of shear. This might reduce or limit the number of storms forming in some years but it's not going to hold back the potential for intense storms. The intensity of hurricanes is derived locally by how warm the water is where the hurricane forms and where it moves.

dunderthebarbarian6 karma

Does COVID impact on human activity change the albedo of the Earth?

helicityman16 karma

No. We would have to shut down industry and people movement down for a much longer period of time to bring any long term impacts or changes. A recent study showed a 17% decrease in CO2 emmissions but the amount of C02 still when to a record level this past month. As stated by a leading researcher you can slow down the trash pile but it still keeps building up.

mharmonm16 karma

Are there certain geographies that are expected to hit the hardest? The expectation is the Southeast but are areas in the Northeast and Midwest that could be impacted this season?

helicityman15 karma

The Midwest was already impacted by Cristobal with 2-4 inches of rain. Chances for another impact this season look higher than normal. As far as other areas the Northeast is a tough call at this point. We have had a pattern less favorable for storms to move up the coast in recent years due in part to lower upper level temperatures. But the size, location and orientation of the Bermuda Azores high pressure area will determine the threat to the northeast U.S. Current information would suggest a low chance but not a zero chance. If I lived along or near the Northeast coast I would prepare anyway. All it takes is for the pattern to shift for a couple of weeks and allow a storm to move up the coast.

ebrandsberg3 karma

Given that it is 2020, could this be the year that a category 6 becomes justified to define?

helicityman7 karma

Not really. I don't see the need to go one category higher. I would question what purpose would that serve. Once a hurricane gets to Cat 3 strength it can pretty much destroy a lot of buildings and houses. Cat 5's are rare and most storms at cat 5 level do so when they are out at sea.

classictom3 karma

Apologies if this has already been asked --

When I was AUS, they talked about "cyclones" -- in the US, we talk about "hurricanes" -- what's the difference?

Do you think an increasingly bad hurricane season will affect the functioning of hospitals? I am a new nurse and not many institutions talk about disaster planning. Usually a very brief video you have to watch for orientation.

helicityman5 karma

All storms are cyclones in the northern hemisphere all cyclones turn counter clockwise. In the southern hemisphere they turn clockwise. Hurricane, Typhoons and Tropical Cyclones (usually just called cyclones in Australia and India) are all the same kind of storm. I can't say what will happen at hospitals this season given the lingering pandemic. It would be wise to prepare for the unexpected.

sprigglespraggle2 karma

I've read that fewer commercial airline flights due to COVID have made weather forecasting more difficult, because meteorologists use commercial airliners as sort-of flying weather stations. Is this true, and if it is, what effect do you expect it will have on hurricane prediction and preparedness? Is there anything we can be doing to mitigate the loss of this information?

helicityman2 karma

The data provided by aircraft landing and taking off impacts only highly impacts the meso-models which are run hourly. The more global models are not affected by this. Although global models use the high altitude data from cruising aircraft.

bradygreen1232 karma

I live in Houston. Does this go for the Gulf of Mexico as well? This would be terrible considering we are just now getting over Harvey.

helicityman3 karma

Yes. I would be worried about being hit by a major storm. Always prepare.

armadilloben2 karma

Do you expect more storms to track northward along the east coast this season? or is that something that is completely indeterminable?

helicityman6 karma

As far as other areas the Northeast is a tough call at this point. We have had a pattern less favorable for storms to move up the coast in recent years due in part to lower upper level temperatures. But the size, location and orientation of the Bermuda Azores high pressure area will determine the threat to the northeast U.S. Current information would suggest a low chance but not a zero chance. If I lived along or near the Northeast coast I would prepare anyway. All it takes is for the pattern to shift for a couple of weeks and allow a storm to move up the coast.

cuellarif2 karma

Just read that SAL was going to slow down the season. Is this an annual phenomenon?

helicityman4 karma

The SAL is not going to slow down the season. The SAL is there every June through Aug. if the SAL is still in place in the middle of AUG then that will be an issue. I see this idea every year. The SAL fades away during late Jul and early Aug.

mootfeet2 karma

In what ways can gulf coast states improve hurricane preparedness and decrease the impact hurricanes have on these regions?

helicityman3 karma

Build less near the coast and build smart inland.

Robertdigitalorgasm2 karma

What is the largest hurricane possible on planet Earth, and if big enough, would it become self sustaining like Jupiter’s red spot hurricane?

helicityman5 karma

Large hurricanes are prone to lots of issues. On the earth there's too much friction and shear to maintain a storm for a real long period of time.

PancakePowered2472 karma

Why are hurricanes strongest over water but weaker on land?

helicityman4 karma

Hurricanes form within the tropics due to the availability of warm water and usually moist air through the vertical. Hurricanes start out as blobs of thunderstorms that develop a rotation due to the earth's rotation, just as we see with most storms. However, hurricanes derive their energy due to the what we call latent heat release when clouds build and create rain. When rain happens the process gives off heat energy and that drives the hurricane engine. This is why hurricanes have a warm core. Storms that occur in the more northern latitudes have a cold core and derive their energy from temperature contrasts.

AvengedCptn1172 karma

How will the Saharan sand cloud currently heading towards the gulf have an effect on the hurricane season?

helicityman3 karma

Probably not much. This dust is most active in June and July. Worst of the season is Aug-Oct when dust is much less.

abdhjops2 karma

When the weather experts on TV say hurricane strengthen winds, is that on the ground or up in the air?

helicityman3 karma

Usually wind speed is referenced at 10 meters above the surface.

BitGladius1 karma

Is there any indication that anything will be better than usual in 2020?

helicityman2 karma

Good question we will know by Jan 1.

babubaichung1 karma

Any of the cyclones hitting east coast (nj/nyc) of USA?

helicityman3 karma

The pattern favors a higher chance over the Gulf coast states and southeast U.S. The northeast has the lowest chance but not a zero chance I would prepare regardless.

betzevim1 karma

When you predicted an active hurricane season, did you have to do research to come to that conclusion? Or did you just assume because of 2020?

helicityman2 karma

We have been expecting the climate pattern to go from a weak El Nino, warm sea surface temps in the Pacific, to normal temps then to cooler sea surface temperatures during the summer. This pattern causes the upper level westerly winds to retreat northward leading to less frequent episodes of shear. Sea surface temperatures in most of the Gulf of Mexico, across the Caribbean and across much of the tropical Atlantic are warmer than normal already and climate models show abnormally warm water through November. Another new issue is that rainfall over key areas of the Sahel in western Africa are reporting above normal rainfall. Some stations are reporting abnormally high rainfall. That suggests the East African Jet that brings tropical waves off the west coast of Africa is more active than normal. These and plus projected wind flow along an south of 15 north point to a very active season . This lines up with past active seasons.

polkapro1 karma

Can we just nuke 'em?

helicityman2 karma

See my comment down below on nuking hurricanes.

divineInsanity40 karma

I'm headed to big island in august for university. Should I be expecting crazy weather there as it is their hurricane season?

helicityman1 karma

We are expecting a lower than normal threat for hurricanes and storms impacting Hawaii. I still would be prepared for one.

MichJohn67-1 karma

Are you that loud, bald weather guy who shouts his forecasts? If so, I LOVE your videos.

helicityman2 karma

Nope

RealMcGonzo-2 karma

Do forecasters usually predict higher than normal activity for hurricane season or is it just those predictions are the ones that make the news?

helicityman1 karma

The higher predictions make the news. In 2009 we were going with a less active season and it turned out that way.

rdgrdmdfld-3 karma

Will there be Covid19 hurricanes?

Like, hurricanes MADE of Covid19? 😳

helicityman1 karma

Wind causes particulates to spread out over a large area.

Karl_Marx_-4 karma

Can you think of any stocks that might increase/decrease to this possible increase in hurricanes?

helicityman1 karma

Home building companies and companies that go in and clean up the damage. But you won't see much movement until a storm threatens the coast.