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Experts call for an active hurricane season as the tropics rumble awake

Thursday, August 5th 2021, 4:00 pm - As we approach the peak of the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, the basin is beginning to wake up from its long July slumber. Two expert forecasts released this week call for above-average activity through the rest of the season.

We could be in for a hectic peak to the hurricane season over the next couple of months.

Experts who specialize in long-range tropical weather predictions expect more than a dozen tropical storms and hurricanes to develop in the Atlantic basin through this fall.

The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) still expects above-average hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean, according to the agency’s mid-summer outlook issued on Wednesday.

Forecasters with Colorado State University issued their own prediction on Thursday, concurring that the ingredients are in place for a busy peak to this year’s hurricane season.

While the Atlantic basin has been unusually quiet for the past month, the serenity won’t last long. There are already a few disturbances out near Africa, and forecasters expect plenty more to follow in the weeks and months ahead.

EXPERTS CALL FOR 15 TO 21 NAMED STORMS THIS SEASON

NOAA predicts that this year’s hurricane season could end with a final tally of 15 to 21 named storms. A system in the Atlantic basin earns a name when it strengthens into a tropical storm.

NOAA / CSU Hurricane Forecasts Aug 5 2021

More than half of those storms could become hurricanes, the outlook notes, and several of those hurricanes could grow into major hurricanes, packing maximum sustained winds of 178 km/h or stronger.

Colorado State University’s forecast cuts straight down the middle, calling for 18 named storms. The school’s prediction also calls for eight hurricanes, four of which could strengthen into major hurricanes.

An average Atlantic hurricane season would see 14 named storms, seven hurricanes, and three major hurricanes, which are rated category three or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

The climatological peak of the Atlantic hurricane season occurs on September 10, though heightened tropical activity is common from August through October. The season officially runs from June 1 to November 30.

THE INGREDIENTS EXIST FOR A FLURRY OF ACTIVITY

The predictions from both NOAA and Colorado State University rely on a combination of factors that include low wind shear, warm ocean temperatures, and an increase in tropical waves moving off the western coast of Africa, according to statements released by each group this week.

Atlantic Sea Surface Temps Aug 4 2021

Tropical cyclones are powerful but fragile storms. A hurricane needs warm waters, moist air, low wind shear, and intense thunderstorms in order to develop and strengthen. Lacking any of those ingredients can spell doom for a budding storm.

WE’RE WATCHING A FEW DISTURBANCES NEAR AFRICA THIS WEEK

The outlooks couldn’t come at a better time. After the Atlantic fell unusually quiet through most of July, the tropics are growing more active as tropical waves begin to roll off the African coast.

The West African monsoon season produces complexes of thunderstorms that travel west and move over the eastern Atlantic Ocean. These clusters of storms, or waves, are the seeds from which many named storms form at the height of the hurricane season.

NHC Tropical Weather Outlook Aug 4 2021

The U.S. National Hurricane Center’s 5-day tropical weather outlook on Thursday, August 5, noted several disturbances in the eastern Atlantic for potential tropical development through the weekend. We should expect more activity like this in the coming weeks as we approach the peak of the season in September.

WE’VE ALREADY SEEN FIVE STORMS SO FAR THIS YEAR

Despite July’s inactivity, we’ve already seen five named storms so far this year. The season’s first named storm formed in May, kicking off this year’s hurricane season before the official start date for a record seventh year in a row.

Atlantic Hurricane Tracks Through Aug 5 2021

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The Atlantic’s most recent named storm was Hurricane Elsa, which broke several records with its formation in the Caribbean Sea at the beginning of July. Elsa’s remnants produced as much as 92 mm of rain in New Brunswick.

The next name on the list is Fred, followed by Grace, Henri, and Ida.

WE COULD DIVE DEEP INTO THE LIST OF STORM NAMES AGAIN

It’s notable that the upper end of NOAA’s outlook would bring the season to the end of the list of 21 names allotted for each hurricane season. We’ve only exhausted the official list of names twice before, first in 2005 and again during last year’s historic hurricane season.

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was the most active on record, amassing 30 named storms between May 16 and November 18. The season ran through the list of 21 names by the middle of September, requiring the use of nine Greek letters to name the remaining storms.

The World Meteorological Organization has since abolished the use of Greek letters once the list of names runs out, opting instead to establish an alternate list of names if we see 22 or more storms in a single season.

However, it’s unlikely that we’ll see more than 21 storms this year.

Stay with The Weather Network for the latest updates throughout hurricane season.

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