NOAA Hurricane Forecast Update Predicts Busy Season

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The latest hurricane forecast still predicts an ‘above normal’ season.

A resident in Kings Bay, Ga., surveyed damage after Tropical Storm Elsa. Credit…Mass Communication 3Rd Class Aaron Xavier Saldana/U.S. Navy, via Associated Press

Aug. 4, 2021, 4:56 a.m. ET

Conditions in and above the Atlantic Ocean continue to suggest that this year’s hurricane season will be an above average one, a government scientist said Wednesday.

Matthew Rosencrans, of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said that an updated forecast suggested that there would be 15 to 21 named storms, including 7 to 10 hurricanes, by the end of the season on Nov. 30. Three to five of the hurricanes could be major ones of Category 3 or higher, with sustained winds above 110 miles an hour.

The updated numbers are only slightly changed from NOAA’s preseason forecast in May.

“There’s now a 65 percent chance for an above-average season,” Mr. Rosencrans said. An average year has 14 named storms, seven of which are hurricanes, including three major ones.

Hurricane season begins on June 1, although every year since 2015, storms have developed before June. This year, Tropical Storm Ana formed in late May.

Ana was the first of five named storms so far. The fifth, and first hurricane, Elsa, formed on July 1, making 2021 the fastest to reach five storms, ahead of 2020.

As a Category 1 hurricane, with top wind speeds of about 85 miles an hour, Elsa caused flooding and other damage in parts of the Caribbean before briefly entering the Gulf of Mexico, crossing northern Florida and traveling up the East Coast. Downgraded to a tropical storm, Elsa contributed to flooding in and around New York City on July 8.

Since Elsa, the season has been quiet. But mid-August through October tends to be the most active period, because the ocean has warmed through the summer, providing more energy for the rise of large rotating, or cyclonic, storm systems. During those months wind shear, changes in the speed and direction of winds that can disrupt the structure of storms, weakening them, also tends to be reduced.

The National Hurricane Center is currently tracking three areas of low-pressure air in the Atlantic Ocean, two off West Africa and one closer to the east coast of South America. These kinds of atmospheric disturbances in the tropical Atlantic can lead to tropical storms or hurricanes. But the hurricane center said the likelihood of these becoming storms was currently low.

Researchers have documented that global warming has affected cyclonic storms, although there is debate about some of the ways they may be linked.

Climate change is producing stronger storms, and they produce more rainfall, in part because there is more moisture in warmer air, and in part because they tend to slow down. Rising seas and slower-moving storms can make for more destructive storm surges.

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