The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season got off to a record-breaking start, with five named storms forming before August, and forecasters warn that the remainder of the season could be more active than normal.
“The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season does not show any signs of relenting as it enters the peak months ahead,” said Rick Spinrad, administrator of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, in a midseason update issued Aug. 5.
NOAA now forecasts 15 to 21 named storms with winds exceeding 39 mph, including seven to 10 reaching hurricane strength with sustained winds in excess of 73 mph. Of that number, three to five could reach major hurricane status with top winds of at least 111 mph.
“A mix of competing oceanic and atmospheric conditions generally favor above-average activity for the remainder of the Atlantic hurricane season,” said Matthew Rosencrans, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.
The latest numbers are up slightly from NOAA’s preseason forecast of 13 to 20 named storms, including six to 10 reaching hurricane strength. A normal season of storm activity averages 14 named storms with seven reaching hurricane strength.
The six-month Atlantic hurricane season, which includes storm activity over the Atlantic Coast, the Caribbean and the Gulf of Mexico, ends Nov. 30. Tropical Storms Ana, Bill, Claudette and Dana developed and dissipated between May 19 and June 29.
Elsa, which developed into a tropical storm west of the Cape Verde Islands on June 29, reached hurricane strength July 1, becoming the earliest fifth-named storm on record. After an initial landfall in Cuba, the storm restrengthened in the eastern Gulf of Mexico, making landfall as a tropical storm with highest sustained winds of 65 mph on the Florida panhandle.
Researchers at Colorado State University’s Tropical Weather and Climate Research Center revised their seasonal hurricane forecast slightly downward from 20 named storms to 18.
Lead researcher Phil Klotzbach cited warmer-than-normal Atlantic waters and weakened vertical wind shear as factors contributing to the change in CSU’s forecast. While still above average, tropical weather development in the Atlantic basin could be less than anticipated in CSU’s last update released in July.
Government forecasters and disaster preparedness experts continue to urge residents in coastal areas from Texas to New England to stay aware of threatening conditions and be prepared through the end of the season.
“Now is the time for families and communities to ensure their preparations are in place,” said National Weather Service Director Louis W. Uccellini. “These storms can be devastating, so be prepared for all possible outcomes by staying tuned to the forecast and following safety information and possible evacuation notifications issued by emergency officials.”