Hurricane Season

Hurricane Season

National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA)
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) defines a hurricane as “an intense tropical weather system with a well-defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher.”

Be prepared – have a plan!

For assistance with making an emergency plan read more here »
. 1) FEMA Ready
. 2) American Red Cross Disaster and Safety Library
. 3) ReadyNC
. 4) Town Emergency Information
. 5) HBPOIN Hurricane Emergency Plan

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If the Town declares a mandatory evacuation, PLEASE LEAVE
General Assembly during the 2012 Session, specifically authorizes both voluntary and mandatory evacuations, and increases the penalty for violating any local emergency restriction or prohibition from a Class 3 to a Class 2 misdemeanor. Given the broad authority granted to the governor and city and county officials under the North Carolina Emergency Management Act (G.S. Chapter 166A) to take measures necessary to protect public health, safety, and welfare during a disaster, it is reasonable to interpret the authority to “direct and compel” evacuations to mean ordering “mandatory” evacuations. Those who choose to not comply with official warnings to get out of harm’s way, or are unable to, should prepare themselves to be fully self-sufficient for the first 72 hours after the storm.

No matter what a storm outlook is for a given year,

vigilance and preparedness is urged.

Previously reported – November 2020
A hurricane season for the record books
Starting with the first storm, which struck two weeks before the official start of the Atlantic season on June 1, this year has now seen 30 named storms — 13 of them hurricanes — breaking a record set in 2005, when 28 storms grew strong enough to be named. This is only the second time — after 2005, the year Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast — that meteorologists have exhausted the list of storm names in alphabetical order and moved on to the 24-letter Greek alphabet.

Previously reported – March 2021
Hurricane season start date could shift earlier because of a surge in May storms

Story Highlights

    • According to NOAA, May storms have formed in each of the past six years.
    • Although the majority of the recent May storms have been rather benign, some have not.
    • There will be no changes to the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season this year.

Because of a surge in May storms, meteorologists are considering moving the start date of the Atlantic hurricane season from June 1 to May 15. The hurricane season has started on June 1 for more than five decades. The discussion on changing the start date began in December at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s (NOAA) hurricane conference, which followed the most active hurricane season on record, when 30 named storms formed. Storms have formed in May in each of the past six years, according to NOAA. In 2020, Tropical Storm Arthur came to life on May 16, followed by Tropical Storm Bertha on May 27. Since the late 1960s, when satellites began identifying tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic, 19 named storms have formed before June 1, Colorado State University researcher Phil Klotzbach said. Although the majority of the recent May storms have been rather benign, some have not: “At least 20 deaths have occurred from late May storms since 2012, with about $200 million in total damage, and one of these systems was a 60-knot (70 mph) tropical storm at landfall,” according to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO). The most recent confirmed hurricane during the month of May dates back to May 20, 1970 – Hurricane Alma, which reached maximum sustained winds of 80 mph, AccuWeather said. A tropical storm becomes a hurricane when its maximum sustained winds reach 74 mph. Klotzbach worries about moving the start date to May 15 since the most dangerous storms typically don’t occur until the height of the season from late August through mid-October. “If you extend the season another 15 days, you could basically have three months with very little storm activity,” Klotzbach said. “People can only prepare for things for so long before they just say, ‘forget it.’” The eastern Pacific hurricane season begins May 15, but Klotzbach said the Atlantic basin has a much more peaked season. The World Meteorological Organization and NOAA will have meetings this spring to discuss moving the date of the hurricane season. The WMO has the final say on any potential date change. “An examination would need to take place regarding the need for, and potential ramifications of, potentially moving the beginning of the hurricane season to May 15,” National Hurricane Center spokesman Dennis Feltgen said in a statement sent to USA TODAY. Regardless, there will be no changes to the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season this year, he said. Although the start date of the basin’s hurricane season has traditionally begun on June 1, the end date has a history of being pushed back, first from Oct. 31 to Nov. 13 to Nov. 30, where it is today, AccuWeather said.
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New climate ‘normal’ for Atlantic hurricanes shows more frequent and intense storms
The past 30 years have seen record levels of hurricane activity.
Every 10 years, the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration revises the baseline of what weather and climate conditions are considered “normal.” The most recent normals for Atlantic hurricane activity will soon be released, and a preview reveals a spike in storm frequency and intensity. During the most recent 30-year period, which spans 1991 to 2020, there has been an uptick in the number of named storms and an increase in the frequency of major hurricanes of category 3 intensity or greater in the Atlantic. That comes as no surprise amid a spate of extreme hurricane activity that has featured seven Category 5 storms swirling across Atlantic waters in just the past five years. The newly revised climate normals aren’t a forecast of upcoming activity, nor are they necessarily illustrative of any one particular climate or meteorological trend. They’re simply benchmark values. The National Weather Service calculates new climate normals each decade for all major U.S. cities with sufficient historical data. When you hear your local television meteorologist describe a day as “10 degrees above average,” for instance, this data is where that comes from. The new hurricane normals are not official yet, though available data clearly shows an uptick in storm frequency and intensity, likely related to a combination of climate change, natural variability, and improved storm detection.
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Previously reported – April 2021
‘It only takes one storm’: AccuWeather predicts above-average 2021 hurricane season for NC
AccuWeather is predicting an above-average Atlantic hurricane season for 2021.  In a report released Wednesday, AccuWeather’s team of tropical weather experts said 2021 is predicted to bring 16-20 named storms, with seven-to-10 becoming hurricanes and three-to-five major hurricanes expected to impact the United States. A normal season, according to their report, is 14 storms. In 2020, there were 13 storms with six becoming major hurricanes. In the National Weather Service’s Wilmington office, Warning Coordination Meteorologist Steve Pfaff said they use predictions given by the National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA, which won’t be out until May.  Right now, NOAA forecasters are still looking at all the moving pieces that help create a hurricane season prediction, Pfaff said. That includes everything from expected rainfall trends in Africa, which could impact the number of tropical waves, to temperatures in the Caribbean and wind patterns that could move Saharan dust into the Atlantic basin.  “These predictions are not simple,” Pfaff explained. The more important thing about these annual season predictions, Pfaff said, is that it gets communities talking. North Carolina is “rapidly approaching hurricane season,” which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30, Pfaff said.  “Regardless of what the prediction is, it only takes one storm to define a region,” he added. Even if the NOAA forecast predicts a lower-than-average season, Pfaff said the level of preparedness shouldn’t change. “All it takes is that one,” Pfaff said. “People unfortunately equate the number to impact. That’s not a good way to think about these.”  Pfaff has spent 26 years with the National Weather Service, and over that time he’s seen more and more category 4 storms, which is why he stresses the importance of being prepared no matter what predictions show. The numbers are just that – purely numbers – and don’t specify who has a higher chance of being hit. On top of that, several hurricanes in recent years have led to significant flooding events. “It seems like we’re seeing more and more tropical storms and hurricanes that result in flood disasters,” Pfaff said, using Hurricane Florence as a prime local example. The storm, which made landfall near Wrightsville Beach on Sept. 14, 2018 as a Category 1, was slow moving and dumped record-breaking amounts of rain on the area for days. During these times people are cut off from help and supplies. Pfaff recommended families keep preparations on hand for seven days rather than the typical three in case of extreme “It seems like we’re seeing more and more tropical storms and hurricanes that result in flood disasters,” Pfaff said, using Hurricane Florence as a prime local example. The storm, which made landfall near Wrightsville Beach on Sept. 14, 2018 as a Category 1, was slow moving and dumped record-breaking amounts of rain on the area for days. During these times people are cut off from help and supplies. Pfaff recommended families keep preparations on hand for seven days rather than the typical three in case of extreme circumstances. Meteorologists are also considering a change in the timeline for hurricane season, potentially moving the date two weeks earlier to mid-May due to an increase in May storms. That discussion is still ongoing and would require worldwide coordination. While most May storms tend to be tropical storms or low-category hurricanes due to there being less warm water to feed off than during the summer, Pfaff said, he recommends having kits ready to go in early May.
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2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season Expected to Be More Active Than Normal

At a Glance

  • A total of 17 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes are expected this season.
  • This is above the 30-year average of 15 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
  • The forecast was released Thursday by the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project.

The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season is predicted to be more active than usual, according to an outlook released Thursday by the Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project. The group led by Dr. Phil Klotzbach calls for 17 named storms, eight hurricanes and four 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 15 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes. “We anticipate that the 2021 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have above-normal activity,” Klotzbach wrote in the outlook. Though the official Atlantic hurricane season runs from June through November, storms can occasionally develop outside those months, as was the case in the previous six seasons and 10 of the past 18 seasons since 2003. In 2020, Tropical storms Arthur and Bertha each formed in mid- to late May. The CSU outlook is based on roughly 40 years of statistical factors combined with data from seasons exhibiting similar features of sea-level pressure and sea-surface temperatures in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific oceans.

What Does This Mean for the United States?
A record 11 storms made landfall in the U.S. in 2020, including six hurricanes: Hanna, Isaias, Laura, Sally, Delta, and Zeta. That’s well above the average of one to two hurricane landfalls each season, according to NOAA’s Hurricane Research Division. “We anticipate an above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean,” Klotzbach said. “As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them. They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.” Despite the 2020 season, there isn’t necessarily a strong correlation between the number of storms or hurricanes and U.S. landfalls in any given season. One or more of the 17 named storms predicted to develop this season could hit the U.S. or none at all. Some past hurricane seasons have been inactive but included at least one notable landfall. The 1992 season produced only six named storms and one subtropical storm. However, one of those named storms was Hurricane Andrew, which devastated South Florida as a Category 5 hurricane. In 1983, there were only four named storms, but one of them was Alicia. The Category 3 hurricane hit the Houston-Galveston area and caused almost as many direct fatalities there – 21 – as Andrew did in South Florida – 26. On the other hand, the 2010 Atlantic season was very active, with 19 named storms and 12 hurricanes. Despite the high number of storms that year, no hurricanes and only one tropical storm made landfall in the U.S. In other words, a season can deliver many storms but have little impact or deliver few storms and have one or more hitting the U.S. coast with major impact. The bottom line is it’s impossible to know for certain if a U.S. hurricane strike will occur this season. Keep in mind that even a weak tropical storm hitting the U.S. can cause major impacts, particularly if it moves slowly and rainfall triggers flooding.
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‘Average’ Atlantic hurricane season to reflect more storms
Higher averages based on most recent 30-year climate record
Beginning with this year’s hurricane season outlooks, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) will use 1991-2020 as the new 30-year period of record. The updated averages for the Atlantic hurricane season have increased with 14 named storms and 7 hurricanes. The average for major hurricanes (Category 3, 4 or 5) remains unchanged at 3. The previous Atlantic storm averages, based on the period from 1981 to 2010, were 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. NOAA is updating the set of statistics used to determine when hurricane seasons are above-, near-, or below-average relative to the climate record. This update process occurs once every decade.  “This update allows our meteorologists to make forecasts for the hurricane season with the most relevant climate statistics taken into consideration,” said Michael Farrar, director of NOAA’s National Centers for Environmental Prediction. “Our work illustrates the value of NOAA’s investments in next-generation technologies to capture the data that underpins our outlooks and other forecast products. These products are essential to providing the public and local emergency managers with advance information to prepare for storms, and achieving NOAA’s mission of protecting life and property.” 

 This graphic captures the changes in Atlantic hurricane season averages from the last three-decade period of 1981-2010 to the most current such period, 1991-2020. The updated averages for the Atlantic hurricane season have increased with 14 named storms and 7 hurricanes. The average for major hurricanes remains unchanged at 3. The previous Atlantic storm averages, based on the period from 1981 to 2010, were 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes.

The increase in the averages may be attributed to the overall improvement in observing platforms, including NOAA’s fleet of next-generation environmental satellites and continued hurricane reconnaissance. It may also be due to the warming ocean and atmosphere which are influenced by climate change. The update also reflects a very busy period over the last 30 years, which includes many years of a positive Atlantic Multi-decadal Oscillation, which can increase Atlantic hurricane activity. “These updated averages better reflect our collective experience of the past 10 years, which included some very active hurricane seasons,” said Matt Rosencrans, seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “NOAA scientists have evaluated the impacts of climate change on tropical cyclones and determined that it can influence storm intensity. Further research is needed to better understand and attribute the impacts of anthropogenic forcings and natural variability on tropical storm activity.” For the Eastern Pacific and Central Pacific basins the averages over the 1991 – 2020 period do not change. The Eastern Pacific basin will remain at 15 named storms, 8 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes. The Central Pacific basin will maintain an average of 4 named storms, 3 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes. NOAA will issue its initial seasonal outlook for the 2021 hurricane season in late May. The Atlantic hurricane season officially runs from June 1 through November 30.
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Previously reported –
2020 tied a record for the most major hurricanes in the Atlantic, after further review
The National Hurricane Center retroactively upgraded Zeta to a Category 3 at landfall
After each hurricane season, the National Hurricane Center pens detailed write-ups that require them to meticulously review each storm that formed. Once in a while, they encounter new data that changes how they categorize storms. A report released Tuesday on Hurricane Zeta, which struck Louisiana in October, suggests the storm was at Category 3 strength at landfall in late October. Five fatalities have been attributed to the storm, which made landfall in Cocodrie, on the Louisiana Delta. That upgrade means the 2020 hurricane season had seven major hurricanes, rated Category 3 or higher, swirling through the Atlantic, tying 2005s record for the most such storms. The record 2020 season featured an unheard-of 30 named storms, exhausting the conventional alphabetized list of storms, while dipping farther into the supplementary Greek alphabet list than ever before. With its revised rating, Zeta becomes the latest-landfalling major hurricane to ever hit the contiguous United States. According to the National Hurricane Center, the old record was set by the Tampa Bay Hurricane on Oct. 25, 1921. Five of the last six storms in the 2020 Atlantic season reached Category 3 or higher. The season ended with a bang when Category 5 Hurricane Iota struck the coast of Nicaragua barely 15 miles from where the devastating Hurricane Eta hit with Category 4 winds just two weeks before.
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Get Ready: It’s Hurricane Preparedness Week
Gov. Roy Cooper has joined the national effort to make people more aware of the dangers of hurricanes by declaring this week Hurricane Preparedness Week. Hurricane Preparedness Week, which began Sunday and ends Saturday, is to remind residents to prepare for severe tropical weather common in North Carolina during hurricane season, which is June 1 through Nov. 30. “All North Carolinians should take this time to prepare for the possible impacts of a hurricane or other severe weather by updating their family emergency plans and supply kits,” Cooper said. “Having a plan and supplies will help you to survive through a hurricane and to recover faster should one adversely affect your home.” The state is currently recovering from the devastating effects of multiple storms including Hurricane Isaias and the remnants of Hurricane Eta in 2020, Hurricane Dorian in 2019, Hurricane Florence as well as Tropical Storms Michael and Alberto in 2018, and Hurricane Matthew in 2016. “There are things everyone can do to prepare for severe weather long before it hits, such as having flood insurance and knowing if you live in a coastal evacuation zone,” said Mike Sprayberry, executive director of the state Emergency Management and the Office of Recovery and Resiliency. The 20 North Carolina coastal counties have established predetermined evacuation zones, based on the threats of storm surge and river flooding. Residents can find out if they live in one of these zones by visiting Residents should learn their zone and watch or listen for it if evacuations are ordered before or after a storm. “I also encourage everyone to lookout for one another, especially for those who may be more vulnerable such as the elderly,” said Sprayberry. “It is easier get through a disaster by helping your friends and neighbors and working together.”

An emergency plan should include details on a meeting place and family phone numbers. Officials recommend writing down the emergency plan and gathering important documents, such as copy of driver’s license, insurance policies, medical records, and prescriptions, and make sure they’re quickly accessible in case of emergency.

Officials also encourage residents to review and update homeowners or renters’ insurance policies to ensure they are current and include adequate coverage for your current situation. Assemble an emergency supplies kit that includes enough nonperishable food and water to last each family member three to seven days. Other essential items include the following:

    • First-aid kit
    • Weather radio and batteries
    • Prescription medicines
    • Sleeping bag or blankets
    • Changes of clothes
    • Hygiene items such as toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, and deodorant
    • Cash
    • Pet supplies including food, water, bedding, leashes, muzzle, and vaccination records
    • Face masks and hand-sanitizer

Residents should pay attention to weather and evacuation information on local media stations and have a battery-powered radio in case there is a power outage. If asked to evacuate, residents should follow evacuation instructions. To help mitigate damage from severe weather, residents can trim trees, cover windows and secure loose outdoor items before severe weather strikes. More information on hurricanes and overall emergency preparedness is online at Read the governor’s proclamation.
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NOAA predicts 6th consecutive above-average hurricane season
The Atlantic hurricane season doesn’t officially begin for another 12 days, but the early signs are it may end up being yet another very busy one. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) issued it’s seasonal Atlantic hurricane forecast Thursday afternoon. The forecast calls for 13-20 total named storms, 6-10 hurricanes, and 3-5 major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher). All of those categories are above the average of 14 total named storms, seven hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.

The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30 and NOAA is just one of more than a dozen academic institutions, government agencies and private forecasting companies that put out seasonal projections. “Seasonal forecasts from nearly all universities and private agencies are predicting that 2021 will be an above-average season once again,” CNN meteorologist Taylor Ward said. Another highly respected forecaster is Colorado State University, which was the first entity to issue a seasonal tropical forecast. Experts there issued their forecast back on April 8 indicating 17 total named storms, eight of which are expected to be hurricanes. “There aren’t any big outliers this year, while the (European model) was pretty low last year,” said Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist at CSU. Klotzbach noted that the strong consensus between seasonal forecast groups is likely due to the shared observation of features that usually trigger a very active season.
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Previously reported – May 2021
Ana forms in the Atlanic, becoming the first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season
Subtropical Storm Ana formed early Saturday morning, becoming the first named storm of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season. This now marks the seventh year in a row in which at least one named storm has formed prior to the start of Atlantic hurricane season which officially begins June 1.
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NOAA predicts another active Atlantic hurricane season
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center is predicting another above-normal Atlantic hurricane season. Forecasters predict a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season, and a 10% chance of a below-normal season. However, experts do not anticipate the historic level of storm activity seen in 2020.

For 2021, a likely range of 13 to 20 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), of which 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 3 to 5 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher) is expected. NOAA provides these ranges with a 70% confidence. The Atlantic hurricane season extends from June 1 through November 30.

“Now is the time for communities along the coastline as well as inland to get prepared for the dangers that hurricanes can bring,” said Secretary of Commerce Gina Raimondo. “The experts at NOAA are poised to deliver life-saving early warnings and forecasts to communities, which will also help minimize the economic impacts of storms.”

Last month, NOAA updated the statistics used to determine when hurricane seasons are above-, near-, or below-average relative to the latest climate record. Based on this update an average hurricane season produces 14 named storms, of which 7 become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes. [Watch this video summary of the Outlook.]

El Nino Southern Oscillation (ENSO) conditions are currently in the neutral phase, with the possibility of the return of La Nina later in the hurricane season. “ENSO-neutral and La Nina support the conditions associated with the ongoing high-activity era,” said Matthew Rosencrans, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. “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.” Scientists at NOAA also continue to study how climate change is impacting the strength and frequency of tropical cyclones.

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.”

In an effort to continuously enhance hurricane forecasting, NOAA made several updates to products and services that will improve hurricane forecasting during the 2021 season.

Last year’s record-breaking season serves as a reminder to all residents in coastal regions or areas prone to inland flooding from rainfall to be prepared for the 2021 hurricane season.

“With hurricane season starting on June 1, now is the time to get ready and advance disaster resilience in our communities,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell. “Visit and to learn and take the steps to prepare yourself and others in your household. Download the FEMA app to sign-up for a variety of alerts and to access preparedness information. Purchase flood insurance to protect your greatest asset, your home. And, please encourage your neighbors, friends and coworkers to also get ready for the upcoming season.”

NOAA also issued seasonal hurricane outlooks for the Eastern and Central Pacific basins, and will provide an update to the Atlantic outlook in early August, just prior to the peak of the season.

Visit FEMA’s to be prepared for the start of hurricane season and the National Hurricane Center’s website at throughout the season to stay current on watches and warnings.
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Previously reported – August 2021

NOAA updates its hurricane season outlook
The tropical Atlantic has been quiet for the past few weeks, but don’t expect that to last, according to forecasters. NOAA issued a mid-season update for the Atlantic on Wednesday and said forecasters are still expecting another above-average season when it comes to the number of named storms. The updated outlook suggests there could be 15-21 named storms, seven to 10 hurricane and three to five major hurricanes, which are Category 3 or stronger storms. That’s a slight uptick from its May outlook, which had 13 to 20 named storms, six to 10 hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes. An average season, according to NOAA, has 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes. According to NOAA there is a 65 percent chance of an above-average season, a 25 percent chance for an average season and a 10 percent chance of a below-average season. So far this season there have been five named storms. One of those, Elsa, briefly became a Category 1 hurricane. Elsa also made history as the earliest fifth named storm on record. Three of the five storms (Claudette, Danny, and Elsa) made landfall in the U.S. One of the reasons forecasters think it will be another busy year is the possible return of La Nina in the fall. La Nina typically translates into above-average activity in the Atlantic. NOAA issued a La Nina watch last month and said there is a greater than 50 percent chance it will materialize later this fall. Other indicators of what could be a busy season are warmer sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic (though not as warm as during last year’s record-breaking season), reduced wind shear (which can tear storms apart) and a more active monsoon season in west Africa, which can send more disturbances spinning into the eastern Atlantic that can eventually intensify into tropical storms. The hurricne forecast shows how busy forecasters think the season can be, but what it can’t do is predict if or where storms will make landfall. “The seasonal outlook from NOAA is not a landfall forecast as landfalls are typically only predictable within about a week of a storm potentially reaching a coastline,” NOAA said. Forecasters continued to warn those along the coast that it only takes one storm to make it a devastating season for them and to make sure they have all their preparations in place. The Atlantic is showing indications things could get busier soon. The National Hurricane Center on Wednesday was tracking three tropical waves, two of which have low chances of becoming tropical depressions. None of those systems is an immediate threat to the U.S. The Atlantic hurricane season runs until Nov. 30.
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Atlantic hurricane season is about to ramp up dramatically, as NOAA boosts forecast
The Atlantic has been quiet lately. That’s about to change. NOAA is calling for 15 to 21 named storms this season.
After a record start to Atlantic hurricane season in May and June, tropical storminess shut down in mid-July. But signs point to a dramatic ramp-up in activity in the next two weeks, with a number of named storms likely to develop in August and an increasing potential for U.S. impacts. Already, meteorologists are monitoring three tropical waves over the Atlantic that are exhibiting some low-end potential for development. But they may just mark the start of what looks to be a jam-packed peak season ahead. On Wednesday morning, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released their latest hurricane outlook calling for even greater odds of an above-average season, which runs through November. That would make 2021 the sixth consecutive year to feature above-average tropical storm activity. “NOAA’s updated outlook … indicates an above average season is likely,” said Matthew Rosencrans, a meteorologist at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, in a news conference Wednesday. “The number of named storms is likely to be 15 to 21, [which includes] seven to 10 hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes.” That’s an increase from its May prediction for 13 to 20 named storms and six to 10 hurricanes; its forecast for the number of major hurricanes was unchanged. In recent weeks, the Atlantic has been virtually silent, without any named systems present anywhere in the ocean basin since the dissipation of Elsa on July 9. Elsa brought heavy rain and tornadoes to parts of the East Coast. “Given an increase in predicted number of named storms and hurricanes, there is now a 65 percent chance of an above-average season … and only a 10 percent chance of a below-average season,” Rosencrans said. Driving the predictions are a number of factors that take into consideration large-scale features of both the atmosphere and ocean. In the short term, the National Hurricane Center is monitoring three disturbances that it says has low chances, 30 percent or less, to develop. The three systems point to the awakening of the Atlantic’s MDR, or Main Development Region. This imaginary box stretches through roughly the eastern two-thirds of the tropical North Atlantic several degrees north of the equator and encompasses the more classic formation locations for tropical systems that compose the bulk of long-track, long-lived Atlantic hurricanes. At present, hurricanes are hard to come by because of widespread sinking air over the Atlantic. That has suppressed upward motion and inhibited updrafts, preventing the type of clustered thunderstorm activity that occasionally self-aggregates into a fledgling storm. Moreover, intrusions of the SAL, or Saharan Air Layer, draped a layer of hot, dry air over much of the eastern Atlantic, capping the vertical development of thunderstorms in the MDR. That all looks to change in the coming weeks thanks to the combined effects of several large-scale overturning circulations that will bring lift, or foster rising air, over the Atlantic. The Madden-Julian Oscillation, or MJO, can be envisioned as a large wave that sweeps around the global tropics every 30 to 60 days. Air rises on the leading edge of the waves, which is characterized by a packet of unsettled weather and widespread thunderstorm activity, while sinking air on the back side marks the “suppressed phase” of the wave. Similar, albeit smaller, features known as “convectively coupled Kelvin waves” will periodically overlap with the MJO to bring occasional enhancements or temporary lulls in the season. It’s ordinarily possible to predict these sub seasonal upticks about a month in advance before a swarm of storms brew. All indications are that beginning around Aug. 10 to 14, the Atlantic will awaken. Later in the month, the tropics could become quite busy as rising motion really takes hold of the Atlantic Basin. It’s a time of year when hurricane activity generally ramps up anyway, so there’s every reason to believe that the latter two weeks of August and the start of September will be busy. Moreover, the Atlantic has warmed significantly in the past couple of weeks. Previously, waters off the Gulf of Mexico coastline were running about a degree or two below average. Now the entire gulf is a degree or two above average. That bolsters the odds of tropical cyclones, which feed off warm water, rapidly intensifying assuming they enter the gulf. Ocean waters over the open Atlantic have also experienced a warming trend across the tropical belt, save for immediately surrounding the Cabo Verde islands. Rosencrans did note that sea surface temperatures, while anomalously warm, are not as hot as in 2020, meaning the season, though anticipated to be active, is not expected to rival the hyperactivity of 2020. In addition, some semblance of a La Niña pattern — the opposite of the more well-known El Niño — could begin to develop as we head deeper into the autumn. That would mean cooler waters over the east equatorial Pacific, fostering sinking there. That would trigger an opposite reaction over the Atlantic, reinforcing rising motion and, in turn, favoring hurricanes. (That can also sometimes weaken high altitude winds over the Atlantic, making it easier for storms to form.) If La Niña does develop, it could extend the end of hurricane season later, potentially keeping activity going into November. Upper-level steering currents could be more supportive of hurricanes affecting the East Coast this year, too, thanks to a swath of blocking high pressure that may become established over the Canadian Maritimes later in August and into September. It’s important to remember that, even though forecasts like this are generally reliable across the entire Atlantic, hurricane season’s impacts are manifest on an individual storm level. In other words, it only takes one storm. Hurricane Andrew formed in 1992, and put an end to what, until that point, had been a cakewalk of an early season. The Category 5 storm leveled entire communities in south Florida. Preparing ahead of time, rather than scrambling when a storm develops and warnings are issued, is the best way to make sure you’re ready for whatever this hurricane season holds.
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Previously reported – October 2021

Goodbye hurricane season? With 6 weeks to go, it may be all but over
While the Atlantic hurricane season does not officially end until Nov. 30, AccuWeather forecasters believe that the odds of any additional tropical storm formation in the near future are low. After a frenetic pace around the peak of hurricane season, there is now just one name left on the 2021 list of storm names: Wanda. Might that name go unused? The 2021 Atlantic hurricane season got off to a <emnderline;” href=”″ target=”_blank” rel=”noope>record-fast start, with five storms forming by July 1, surpassing a record set just a year ago. The season continued at a fast pace, with development kicking off again in mid-August and continuing through mid-September. By the end of the period of rapid activity, eight storms had made landfall in the United States. But now, the tropics sit dormant.
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