Whichever way you look at it, 2020 was yet another truly remarkable North Atlantic hurricane season. It was predicted to be active but exceeded the expectations set, even after seasonal forecasts had been updated to anticipate additional activity. Far too many records were set to recap them all here.
Once again hurricane formation began before the official start of the season and activity continued unusually late into it. A dozen named storms made landfall in the U.S., five of them in Louisiana, and since 1979 only one other year (1995) has seen as many as 10 rapidly intensifying tropical cyclones. The season’s accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) score of 180.1 was 75% above the long-term mean and at the upper end of pre-season forecasts; it places 2020 in the extremely active season category established by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
With the official season behind us, we can now announce the winner of AIR’s fifth client hurricane contest. Congratulations to Sarah Burns of GC Analytics! Sarah has won a smart home weather station.
The object of the contest was to estimate:
- How many named tropical storms will form in the Atlantic during the year?
- How many of those tropical storms will become hurricanes?
- How many will become major hurricanes (Saffir-Simpson Category 3 or higher)?
- How many hurricanes will make landfall in the mainland U.S.?
Sarah predicted 26 named storms, 14 hurricanes, 7 major hurricanes, and 2 U.S. landfalls. The actual totals for the year were 30 named storms, 13 hurricanes, 6 major hurricanes, and 6 U.S. landfalls. This was a particularly challenging season to predict, but Sarah came close to the actual figures and incurred only 10 error points.
AIR also runs an internal hurricane contest for employees, and this time around 109 people entered. Our winner, with 13 error points, was Senior Scientist Les Muir. The second- and third-placed entrants had 14 and 15 error points, respectively. Overall, the mean absolute error of our guesses was a very high 25.4. Last year it was 7.2 (lower is better).
AIR’s hurricane contest is a fun way to underscore just how difficult it is to predict seasonal Atlantic hurricane activity, even when crowdsourcing. We hope you enjoyed this year’s contest and look forward to launching the contest for 2021 in the spring!