Coming off a record-breaking hurricane season last year, government forecasters are predicting more above-normal tropical storm activity for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season with 13 to 20 named storms.

Six to 10 of those could reach hurricane strength with sustained winds of over 74 mph, and three to five could attain major status with sustained winds topping 111 mph, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials said Thursday.

NOAA recently updated the statistics used to project storm activity and now advises that an average hurricane season produces 14 named storms, including seven reaching hurricane strength.

“Predicted warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds, and an enhanced west African monsoon will likely be factors in this year's overall activity," said Matthew Rosencrans, NOAA's lead seasonal hurricane forecaster.

“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.

Researchers at Colorado State University released a similar forecast last month, predicting 17 named storms, with eight reaching hurricane strength and four developing into major hurricanes.

NOAA forecasters joined officials from the Federal Emergency Management Agency on May 20 to release their annual preseason forecast, and they urged those living in potentially affected areas to prepare for the season, which officially begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.

“Now is the time to get ready and advance disaster resilience in our communities," said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell, who urged residents, businesses and community agencies well inland to prepare for storm-related challenges. “Encourage your neighbors, friends and co-workers to also get ready for the upcoming season."

Hundreds of electric cooperatives serve members within 400 miles of the U.S. coastline from Texas to Florida along the Gulf of Mexico and between Florida and Maine along the Atlantic coast.
The unusually active 2020 Atlantic hurricane season included 30 named storms, with 13 that developed to hurricane strength. Six of those reached major hurricane status of Category 3 or higher.

NOAA's hurricane forecast for the central Pacific, including the Hawaiian Islands, predicted a 45% chance of a near-normal season with two to five storms in the region, a 35% chance of less-than-normal activity and a 20% chance of an above-normal season.

“Ocean temperatures are likely to be near to below average in the central and eastern tropical Pacific Ocean where hurricanes form," said Rosencrans, also citing the lack of El Niño atmospheric activity as a factor contributing to limited storm formation.