Experts forecast another busy hurricane season

Hurricane Laura takes aim at Louisiana and Texas on Aug. 26, 2020. Laura made landfall the next day near Cameron, Louisiana as a Category 4 hurricane.

The 2020 Atlantic Basin hurricane season set records for the most activity. It was the fifth consecutive season of above-average activity.

According to the April 8 forecast released by Phil Klotzbach, a renowned research scientist with the Atmospheric Science Department at Colorado State University, the 2021 season will continue that trend.

The 2020 season saw 30 named storms, 13 hurricanes and six major hurricanes, which are a Category 3 or above on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale.

Experts at Colorado State predict that 2021 will have 17 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes — less than 2020 but still more than the average.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced April 9 that it had updated the averages to use numbers from 1991-2020. The new averages are 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes. The previous averages from 1981-2010 were 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

NOAA will release its outlook for the 2021 season in late May shortly before the season begins on June 1. The season continues through Nov. 30. The outlook will not include landfall probabilities.

However, Klotzbach’s forecast does include landfall probabilities. The forecast calls for a 69% chance of a major hurricane, Category 3 or above, making landfall somewhere along the continental U. S. coastline this season. The average in the last century is 52%.

According to the forecast, the east coast, including the Florida Peninsula, has a 45% chance of having a landfall, up from the average of 31%, and the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville, Texas, has a 44% chance, an increase from the 30% average for the last century.

Twelve named storms made landfall in the United States in 2020, breaking a record of nine set in 1916.

Other changes for the season

NOAA will be implementing other changes for the 2021 season, including the decision by the World Meteorological Organization’s Hurricane Committee to stop using the Greek alphabet to name tropical storms.

In 2020, the 21-name list for storms was used up well before the end of the season, in part due to the record number of nine early storms that formed from May through July. In addition, two major hurricanes formed in November, which set another record, for late activity.

The season was the second time that the Greek alphabet was used with 2005 being the first time.

The committee said the use of the Greek alphabet created confusion. It will create a supplemental list of names to use instead.

Because more storms have been forming before the official start of the season, the National Hurricane Center will be begin issuing Atlantic Tropical Weather Outlooks starting on May 15 instead of June 1.

Other changes include use of an experimental graphic to show expected storm surge inundation values and an upgrade to the storm surge forecasting system, as well as use of an experimental Marine Graphical Composite Forecast map.

In addition, social media will be used to provide updates to the public including Facebook and Twitter.

For more information, visit www.nhc.noaa.gov.

“It only takes one”

Emergency officials urge residents to begin planning and making preparations well before the season begins. A common phrase in hurricane-prone areas, such as Pinellas County and Tampa Bay, is “It only takes one to strike where you are to make it a bad season regardless of the predictions.”

For information on how to prepare for a hurricane, visit http://www.pinellascounty.org/resident/disasters.htm.

Suzette Porter is TBN’s Pinellas County editor. She can be reached at sporter@tbnweekly.com.