NOAA predicts an active hurricane season with as many as 20 named storms

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BIRMINGHAM, Ala. (WIAT) — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its seasonal outlook Thursday for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season which officially begins June 1.

NOAA predicts we will see between 13-20 named storms. Named storms included both tropical storms and hurricanes. Of the named storms, it is projected that 6-10 of these will become hurricanes with 3-5 of those hurricanes reaching “major” hurricane status. Major hurricanes are Category 3 and above with winds at 111 mph and greater.

This year, NOAA has greatly improved its forecasting by investing in the data collection infrastructure. This year NOAA will release drones from Hurricane Hunter aircraft to gather better hurricane data. They have also added sail drones and hurricane gliders. ALAMO floats will gather data during the life cycle of tropical systems as well. These are profiling floats that measure temperature and pressure.

Our Hurricane season will be driven by a neutral ENSO (El Nino and Southern Oscillation) which doesn’t inhibit high activity. The Atlantic is predicted to have higher than normal sea surface temperatures, weaker wind shear, which are winds between 35,00 feet and 5,000 feet, as well as weaker than normal trades winds, and enhanced west African monsoon. A combination of these ingredients supports storm development instead of storm suppression.

According to Matt Rosencrans, Head of Forecast Operations from NOAA, data also shows that climate change has not been linked to the frequency of storms, but it has been linked to increased intensity of storms. Climate change is also linked to heavier precipitation and coastal erosion as a result of sea-level rise. Rosencrans states that this year’s forecast is mainly reflective of a high activity era, not directly climate change. This year, our 30-year totals have been adjusted to reflect a slight increase in tropical development since 1991.

FEMA and NOAA recommend if you live along the coast, now is the time to start making a plan. They also note that tropical activity can reach well inland, and it only takes one storm to devastate a community. The time to act is now. 

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