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NOAA predicts busy hurricane season

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is predicted to be more active than usual, according to an outlook recently released by NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

The NOAA outlook calls for 13 to 20 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes. A major hurricane is one that is Category 3 or higher (115-plus-mph winds) on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

This forecast is above the 30-year average (1991 to 2020) of 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

NOAA’s outlook is in agreement with The Weather Company, an IBM Business, which calls for 19 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes.

NOAA’s outlook is based on a number of climate factors, including the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic Basin.

ENSO conditions are expected to be either neutral (neither El Niño nor La Niña) or trend toward La Niña, which means El Niño likely won’t be present to suppress hurricane activity.

Warmer than average sea-surface temperatures are expected in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and the Caribbean Sea. The warmer water temperatures, combined with weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds and an enhanced west African monsoon, increase the odds of an above-average hurricane season.

“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.”

One of those emerging observation techniques is new drones that will be launched from NOAA Hurricane Hunter aircraft to fly into the lower part of hurricanes.

NOAA’s outlook is for overall activity expected during the hurricane season and is not a landfall forecast. It will update the 2021 seasonal outlook in August prior to the historical peak of the Atlantic season.

A record 30 named storms formed in the 2020 hurricane season, 14 of which became hurricanes. A record 11 storms made landfall in the U.S. in 2020, including six hurricanes: Hanna, Isaias, Laura, Sally, Delta and Zeta.

The NOAA and The Weather Company forecasts are similar to the April outlook issued by Colorado State University.