ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:
Hurricane season is coming, and Federal forecasters are predicting that there will be between six and 10 hurricanes in the Atlantic this year. That's above average. Gerry Bell is the lead hurricane forecaster at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.
GERRY BELL: The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be a busy one.
SHAPIRO: NPR's Rebecca Hersher reports.
REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: If the forecast turns out to be correct, this will be the fifth year in a row with above-average hurricane activity in the Atlantic. That's the most consecutive years ever recorded, Bell says.
BELL: We're expecting yet another above-normal season, and now's the time to make sure that you're getting prepared.
HERSHER: The Federal Emergency Management Agency is asking state and local governments to consider issuing evacuation orders earlier than they would have in the past in order to give people more time to safely leave their homes while maintaining as much social distance as possible. Carlos Castillo of FEMA says Americans in hurricane-prone areas should also pack different supplies than they would have.
CARLOS CASTILLO: Be prepared to take cleaning items with you, like soap, hand sanitizer, disinfecting wipes or general household cleaning supplies to disinfect surfaces you may touch regularly.
HERSHER: FEMA is also urging people to stay with family or friends or in hotels rather than in shelters, if they can. Forecaster Gerry Bell says the main reason for the large number of storms in the forecast is a phenomenon called the Atlantic multidecadal oscillation. Basically, the wind and temperatures in the Atlantic have been really good for making strong hurricanes since about 1995. That will probably change in the next few years as normal climate fluctuations happen.
That's separate from manmade climate change, but climate change is making the storms that do form more damaging. For one thing, Bell says, sea levels are rising.
BELL: Higher sea levels mean more storm inundation as a hurricane's approaching.
HERSHER: And warmer air and water mean that hurricanes are more likely to drop catastrophic amounts of rain when they make landfall - think Hurricane Harvey in 2017 or Hurricane Florence in 2018. And, he says, rain and storm surge affect more people than they used to.
BELL: Our coastlines have built up tremendously over the last several decades so that there's potentially many more millions of people in harm's way every time a hurricane threatens.
HERSHER: Together, normal climate variability, plus the effects of human-caused climate change, plus the pandemic, add up to a potentially deadly summer and fall. Hurricane season officially begins on June 1 and runs until November 1.
Rebecca Hersher, NPR News.
[CORRECTION: The radio version of this report incorrectly stated that hurricane season ends on November 1. Hurricane season runs through November 30.]
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