NOAA Predicts Above Average 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season

Written by Dustin Maddox, Meteorologist

Last updated 5/24/2021, 5:43:06 PM

This past Thursday, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released its latest 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season forecast. They are predicting another above-normal season for activity. Forecasters are predicting a 60% chance of an above-normal season, but the historic level of storm activity of 2020 is not expected.

There is a 30% chance of a near-normal season and a 10% chance of a below-normal season. In terms of actual numbers, NOAA is predicting a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms (sustained winds of 39mph or higher), of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (sustained winds of 75mph or higher), and of those 3 to 5 are forecast to become Major hurricanes (category 3, 4, or 5; with winds of 111mph or higher). The main factors contributing to a predicted above average hurricane season are 1) warmer than average sea surface winds, 2) weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds, and 3) an enhanced west African monsoon. In addition, the El Nino Southern Oscillation (or ENSO) conditions are currently in a neutral phase, and could return to a La Nina period later this summer or early Fall, thus leading to enhanced tropical activity.

Just last month, and as mentioned in a previous WeatherTAP blog, NOAA updated the new “30 year norms'' used to define which hurricane seasons are considered above, near, or below normal compared to the latest climate record. Based on this update, an average Atlantic Hurricane season produces 14 named storms, 7 of those become hurricanes, and 3 of those become major hurricanes.

For the first time, this season the National Hurricane Center has begun issuing their routine Tropical Weather Outlook on May 15 (4 times a day), which is over 2 weeks earlier than the official start of the Atlantic Hurricane season that still begins on June 1. This is due to the fact that more systems are now starting to form in the month of May than previously. There is ongoing discussion about if the Atlantic Hurricane Season should begin on May 15, similar to the East Pacific Hurricane Season. In fact, over the weekend, the first named system of the 2021 season was designated, initially forming as a subtropical storm, before briefly becoming tropical in nature, and then becoming a post tropical system. Ana formed early Saturday morning and dissipated late Sunday night northeast of Bermuda. Below are this years Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Names:

Despite the record 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) decided to only retire the names of 3 hurricanes - Laura, Eta, and Iota - the last 2 being Greek named systems - due to the destruction they caused. Because of this, and for simplicity reasons and to avoid confusion for future hyperactive seasons in the Atlantic, the WHO announced back in March that the Greek alphabet will never be used again. Thus, the Hurricane Committee members agreed to create a supplemental list of names to use in the event all the regular names in a season are used. Below are the names from 2020 that were used, as well as the supplemental list of names for the Atlantic Tropical Cyclone Season.

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