Plugging the data into WeatherTiger’s forecast algorithm, the most likely outcome for 2020 is around 160 units of accumulated cyclone energy (ACE), with 19 tropical storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes.

On a lighter note: hurricane season 2020.

The devil you know is back. Unlike a pandemic, at least taking down the shutters after a storm won’t make it return.

This doesn’t imply that hurricane season 2020 will be reasonable. WeatherTiger’s updated seasonal forecast and a consensus of other guidance favors an abnormally active year. We expect net activity two-thirds more than the median season, with 95% odds of more storms than Dr. Birx has scarves.

First, a quick orientation for new readers: I’m Dr. Ryan Truchelut, president and chief meteorologist at WeatherTiger, a Tallahassee-based weather analytics and forensic meteorology firm. I have a doctorate in meteorology from Florida State University and 15 years of commodity weather and tropical forecasting experience.

This is my fourth year of providing hurricane analysis for the USA TODAY FLORIDA Network, with nary a quiet season yet to my name. Expect a column and Facebook Live discussion video each week, with more frequent forecasts as the situation warrants.

I’m also dad to a 1- and 3-year-old, so recently I’ve become half-time operator of a two-student preschool, R-Naught Academy (Mascot: The Fightin’ Fomites; Motto: “All your plans r-naught.”).

If I’m slow returning email this year, I’m probably pondering how the "VeggieTales" gang pick things up without hands while Minnie Mouse stickers are lovingly applied to my face. Send wine.

The fundamentals underpinning our outlook are mostly unchanged since last month. Water temperatures between west Africa and eastern Brazil remain about 1°C above normal; more than any other region, warm spring anomalies there presage busy seasons. This oceanic signal is confirmed by robust spring heat in the lower atmosphere over the eastern Atlantic.

However, the equatorial Pacific Ocean has cooled markedly in May. Our previous outlook highlighted the possibility of summer La Niņa development, but clear evidence of an ongoing transition in the Pacific raises those chances. La Niņa conditions are linked with less vertical wind shear in the Caribbean, Gulf and western Atlantic. More wind shear means weaker and fewer storms, so La Nina-influenced hurricane seasons are more active and destructive than their El Niņo or ENSO-neutral counterparts.

One piece of good news: Tropical Storm Arthur, which brushed past the Outer Banks this week, has no predictive value for the year ahead. Of the 10 most active Mays on record, five years ended below and five ended above the median hurricane season. Arthur was a shot over the bow, but nothing more.

Plugging the data into WeatherTiger’s forecast algorithm, the most likely outcome for 2020 is around 160 units of accumulated cyclone energy (ACE), with 19 tropical storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes. That forecast is significantly above the median season, which has around 95 ACE units.

Let’s translate that forecast into the chances of a below, near and above normal season, with examples of how Florida fared in each type of year.

If a below normal (

The middle third (70-125 ACE) demonstrates a surprising truth: how many tropical storms develop in a season explains only about 20% of the variability of how many hurricanes strike the U.S., with development location, intensification favorability, and steering wind more important factors. Thus, a busy-normal season like 2011 yielded zero Florida landfalls, while a quiet-normal year like 1992 brought Category 5 Hurricane Andrew. Remember that an average hurricane season has one to two U.S. hurricane landfalls, and it really truly only takes one.

The top third of hurricane seasons (ACE>125) contains the multitudes, ranging from a third more than to two-and-a-half times normal activity. Our model suggests that 2020 tilts towards the deep end of the pool, with 40-45% odds of ACE over 160, and a 10% chance of exceeding the record of 250 ACE units.

Steering still counts for a lot. The least worst outcome is something like 2010, which despite ACE of 165, five major hurricanes curved harmlessly into the open Atlantic, with only two modest tropical storms reaching the United States. The worst-case scenario is 2004, when overall hyperactivity (225 ACE) and a strong, west-based Bermuda high bludgeoned Florida with four hurricane landfalls in six weeks. Above normal years usually have at least one U.S. major hurricane landfall.

► MAY 11, 2020: 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season: Here are the names

In summary, active years can have modest impacts and vice versa. We’ll have a better idea how those critical steering currents may shape up later this summer, but in the meantime, a plea to prospective 2020 hurricanes: Please exercise rigorous social distancing from the U.S. this year. Trust me, you don’t want to come here.

I’ll be back for the first weekly column and video of the year in early June, when a disturbance in the western Caribbean may be threatening to ignore those common-sense guidelines.

And away we go. Keep watching the skies.

Ryan Truchelut is co-founder and chief meteorologist at WeatherTiger, a Tallahassee-based start-up providing advanced weather and climate analytics, forensic meteorology and expert witness services, and forecasting solutions to enterprises large and small. Get in touch at