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Hurricane season is (almost) upon us

Are you ready?

Be prepared for another busier-than-normal Atlantic hurricane season, NOAA warned Thursday.

The agency is forecasting 13 to 20 named storms. Between six and 10 of those could become hurricanes and three to five could be major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher. Hurricane season starts June 1.

This forecast follows a record-breaking 2020 with 30 named storms (the initial forecast was 13-19 named storms). Of those 30 storms, 13 became hurricanes and six were classified as major hurricanes. Laura, Eta and Iota were retired from the list of hurricane names due to the damages and fatalities they caused.

“It was a mere six months ago that the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record ended,” Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator, said during a news conference, “and here we are now on the cusp of a new hurricane season.”

This year is not expected to be as active as 2020, but there are several layered conditions causing the “above-normal” forecast for 2021, said Matthew Rosencrans, a meteorologist at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center.

One is a warm phase of sea surface temperature in the North Atlantic Ocean. The sea’s surface temperature has cool and warm phases that may last 20 to 40 years, a natural occurrence that has been happening for at least 1,000 years. This current warm phase, which began in 1995, has favored more, stronger and longer-lasting storms.

Adding to this is a stronger west African monsoon. Disturbances that become tropical storms often come from Africa, and a stronger monsoon (more moisture being pulled into Western Africa) means these disturbances are better positioned to become tropical storms or hurricanes.

NOAA also expects that there will be weaker vertical wind shear and a neutral phase of El Nino, with the possibility of La Niña returning later this year. These provide conditions more favorable for storms to develop whereas their opposites (strong vertical wind shear and El Niño) could impede storm development.

See here for some background. As noted before, there will be no more Greek letter names for overflow storms, but maybe we’ll be lucky and stop at or before Wanda – the full list of names for 2021 is here. It’s not how busy the season is, it’s more about how many storms come to shore. Be prepared and hope for the best.

And when I say “be prepared”, I mean now. There’s no time to lose.

A disturbance near Bermuda is likely to become a subtropical cyclone on Friday, which would make it the first named Atlantic storm of the year, according to the National Hurricane Center.

The system was located about 800 miles east of Bermuda Thursday morning. It was forecast to move over warmer waters Thursday night, with a 70 percent chance of forming into a subtropical cyclone in the next two days.

National Hurricane Center forecasters have been issuing regular updates on tropical weather since May 15 — earlier than usual. Hurricane season doesn’t officially start until June 1.

Feels like they’re going to move the “official” start of hurricane season up a bit at some point, doesn’t it?

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