Hurricane season has officially returned to the Atlantic and 2021 is looking to be another active year.
Back in late May, the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its forecast for the 2021 season.
Forecasters expect this upcoming season to be slightly above average with a total of 14 – 20 named storms. Out of this, 6 – 10 storms are forecasted to reach hurricane strength (74 MPH or greater) with 3 – 5 becoming major hurricanes (category 3 or higher).
A few changes are taking place this season. First, NOAA has updated its numbers for an average hurricane season. Every 10 years, NOAA averages the past 3 decades to get a 30-year storm average to use as the benchmark. The most recent update reflects data from the 1991-2020 hurricane seasons.
The other change is the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) created a supplemental list of names for storms should we exhaust the first name list.
The primary list begins with Ana, which already formed in mid-May. The next storm to receive a name will be called Bill and will continue down the list in alphabetical order until we reach Wanda. In the Atlantic basin, the letters Q, U, X, Y, and Z are skipped when assigning storm names.
If we have a tropical storm or hurricane after Wanda, we will use the supplemental list and follow the same order as the primary list. So Adria will be the next storm after Wanda and so on down the list.
Why the switch from the Greek alphabet? Forecasters and social scientists found using the Greek alphabet caused significant confusion about which storm was being talked about.
Additionally, many people were focusing too much on the storm’s name itself and not the impacts it may bring to an area.
Finally, the retirement of Greek-named storms became an issue after the WMO announced the retirement of Iota and Eta from the 2020 season.
When a tropical storm or hurricane causes significant destruction to an area or loss of life, meteorologists retire the storm name from future use. Using the storm in the future would be inappropriate and possibly trigger false expectations on the storm’s impacts.
While the hurricane season officially begins in June, we don’t typically see a lot of tropical development until later in the summer. Most of our tropical activity in the Atlantic basin occurs between August and late September. This is when the ocean temperatures reach their peak and provide the most fuel for storm development.
You can stay updated to date on the tropics throughout hurricane season with your NWA Weather Authority team, both online and on social media.