NOAA predicts another above-normal Atlantic hurricane season

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Thursday, May 20, 2021
NOAA Atlantic Hurricane Outlook: Above-normal activity predicted
Chief Meteorologist Chris Hohmann explains NOAA's latest hurricane season forecast.

Forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) on Thursday released their 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season outlook.

The official start of the hurricane season is June 1, but for the last six years a named storm has formed in the Atlantic prior to the official start of the season. A system currently growing in the Atlantic could extend that streak to seven years in the coming days.

NOAA's outlook comes more than a month after news that the average number of hurricanes has increased in the Atlantic basin.

On Thursday, NOAA said it is predicting another above-normal Atlantic hurricane season, with forecasters predicting a 60 percent chance of an above-normal season. However, experts do not anticipate the historic level of storm activity seen in 2020.

For 2021, NOAA said there will likely be a range of 13 to 20 named storms, of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes, including 3 to 5 major hurricanes.

NOAA scientists point out three things that will make this season more active than normal: Higher than normal sea surface temperature in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds and enhanced west African monsoon.

"Although NOAA scientists don't expect this season to be as busy as last year, it only takes one storm to devastate a community," said Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator. "The forecasters at the National Hurricane Center are well-prepared with significant upgrades to our computer models, emerging observation techniques, and the expertise to deliver the life-saving forecasts that we all depend on during this, and every, hurricane season."

The average hurricane season now includes 14 named storms and seven hurricanes, up from 12 and six respectively. The average number of major hurricanes remains unchanged at three. NOAA's Climate Prediction Center uses 30-year periods to create the averages. So up until this next hurricane season, the average season was based on information from 1981-2010. This hurricane season will be based off the data from 1991-2020.

In April, scientists with Colorado State University predicted the 2021 season would be above average. The team said 17 named storms and 8 hurricanes are expected, with four of those predicted to be major storms.

NC State researchers are also predicting an active hurricane season this year.