A look back at the 2020 Hurricane Season – An Interview with Hurricane Researcher and Forecaster Dr. Phil Klotzbach

Episode #16

The 2020 hurricane season ends November 30th. This hurricane season resulted in historic impacts across the U.S. including a record five landfalling storms hitting Louisiana. The effects from this season were felt in almost every state along the Gulf Coast and up the Eastern Seaboard of the U.S. In fact, every coastal county or parish east of the Mississippi — except one — was under a tropical-related watch or warning at some point during the season. To put this historic season in perspective we welcome back Dr. Phil Klotzbach — one of the world’s leading researchers in tropical meteorology and heads up the research division at Colorado State University. 

Key Takeaways

  • One of the major takeaways from the 2020 Hurricane Season was the number of storms that underwent rapid intensification right at landfall. Another impact from this record season was the unusual activity in the last third of the season in October and November.
  • Louisiana was the hardest hit state with an historic five landfalling storms. This season’s atmospheric conditions produced a favorable environment for storms, especially in the Gulf of Mexico.
  • As Dr. Klotzbach looks ahead to 2021 he predicts no significant El Nino or other major change in the atmosphere to indicate a dramatic change in next year’s season. Although, he doubts we will see the 2020 record number of storms repeated.  

Key Takeaways

  • [01:50] Have you been surprised with what the 2020 season produced?
  • [03:20] We saw several late season storms form after October 1st, how unusual was that?
  • [04:15] What is going to be some of the factors you will research to determine why this season was so active?
  • [06:00] We saw so many storms rapidly intensify right before landfall, will that be another notable takeaway of this season?
  • [08:15] With the two monster storms that impacted the same region of Central America, how unusual was that?
  • [09:45] With so many storms this year and especially in the Gulf of Mexico, was it unusual that Florida escaped major impacts, aside from the panhandles close call?
  • [11:45] I know you have your 2-week forecast product, how did that support a season as active as 2020?
  • [15:20] This was the most active season we’ve seen since the 2005 storm season; didn’t we see a few storms form back in December that year?
  • [17:10] Let’s talk about 2021 – do you see any significant atmospheric changes that will impact next year’s activity?
  • [20:40] Dr. Bill Gray used to talk about the trends in seasonal activity, are we in an upswing of activity?
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klotzbach formal 2019
Dr. Phil Klotzbach
Research Scientist
Colorado State University

Phil Klotzbach is a Research Scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University. He received his Ph.D. in Atmospheric Science from CSU in 2007. Klotzbach has been employed in the Department of Atmospheric Science for the past 20 years and was co-author on the Atlantic Basin hurricane forecasts with Dr. William Gray through 2005. He became first author on the seasonal hurricane forecasts in 2006. Klotzbach developed the two-week forecasts currently being issued during the peak months of the hurricane season between August-October. He has authored over 50 articles in peer-reviewed journals such as Journal of Climate and Weather and Forecasting.


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