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2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season Could Produce 3-5 Major Storms

 Forecasters predict another above-average season.
Forecasters predict another above-average season.

It’s going to be another busy hurricane season in the Gulf South, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) Climate Prediction Center.

The 2020 season brought a record-breaking 30 storms, including 14 hurricanes, seven of which were major. NOAA scientists expect numbers above average once again in 2021, though not quite so high, said Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator.

But the numbers are close: a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms, of which six to 10 could become hurricanes, including three to five major hurricanes.

“Now is the time for communities along the coastline as well as inland to get prepared for the dangers that hurricanes can bring,” Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo said.

In a press conference, Matthew Rosencrans, hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said NOAA improved its storm surge model and predictive storm models to make predictions more accurate.

Rosencrans said 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 contribute to increased storm formation.

Forecasters are hesitant to connect the number of storms with climate change, but increased ocean surface temperatures play a role in hurricane formation, and scientists find that human-caused climate change is increasing ocean temperatures. NOAA scientists are studying how climate change is impacting the strength and frequency of tropical cyclones.

Last month, NOAA updated its statistical hurricane season averages based on data from the past 30 years, increasing the numbers to 14 named storms, of which seven become hurricanes, including three major hurricanes. The previous Atlantic storm averages, based on the period from 1981 to 2010, were 12 named storms, six hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.

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 Hopefully we don't end up using all of these names. /
Hopefully we don't end up using all of these names.

Tegan Wendland is a freelance producer with a background in investigative news reporting. She currently produces the biweekly segment, Northshore Focus.