Hurricane season is here. Those of us who live near the Florida coastline await the hurricane predictions in the coming months with bated breath. On May 20th, the federal agency National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released their annual report predicting 2021’s storm climate.
While not as dire as what came to pass last year, the predictions forecast the sixth consecutive year of an above-normal hurricane season.
More specifically, the NOAA predicts there will be 13-20 named storms. For a storm to be named, the wind needs to meet a minimum threshold of 39 miles per hour.
There have already been some pre-season storms, one of which already earned a name. On May 19th subtropical storm Ana threatened the island of Bermuda. Luckily, it never elevated to the status of a hurricane, which is defined as having winds reaching 74 miles per hour.
The most worrying prediction is that out of the 20 storms, 3-5 of these could be a major hurricane. A hurricane becomes “major” when the winds exceed 111 miles per hour. Category 3, 4, and 5 hurricanes fall into this category. Of course, these are the predictions we’re really hoping don’t come true, especially since the regions affected are the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico, spinning up the Atlantic coast.
The NOAA is upfront about the probabilities of these storms from their data. Their predictions for the 2021 hurricane season are:
This shows, luckily, there’s a low probability that the storms will be worse than 2020. On the other hand, we’ve seen enough storms lately to not count on that 10% chance 2021 will be below normal.
“Now is the time for communities along the coastline as well as inland to get prepared for the dangers that hurricanes can bring,” said Gina Raimondo, Secretary of Commerce. “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.”
But the scientists at NOAA aren’t the only ones in the hurricane prediction game. In early April, forecasters with Colorado State University had similar predictions. They expect an above-normal season, with 18 named storms, 4 of which will be major hurricanes.
In terms of days, CSU predicts that there will be 80 named storm days, 35 of which will be hurricane days. And out of these 35 scary days, 9 will be major hurricane days.
All of these findings predict storms within the designated season, which starts on June 1st and ends on November 30th.
“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 acting NOAA administrator Ben Friedman. “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.”
Every year, the NOAA and its scientists are transparent about their new efforts to be more accurate each time they predict a new season. This year, the scientists reached their predictions by observing that sea surface temperatures are warmer than average in the tropical regions of the Atlantic Ocean. They also found weaker Atlantic trade winds, as well as “an enhanced west African monsoon” that will “likely factor in this year’s overall activity.”
But just because they released this report doesn’t mean their research is over this year by a long shot. All throughout the season, the NOAA hone its observation techniques to accurately warn the public about any incoming storm threats in the short term.
Their Atlantic Oceanographic and Meteorological Laboratory will deploy drones from special “Hurricane Hunter” aircraft that actually fly into the ocean and the lower part of hurricanes. These will serve to track the life cycle of tropical storms and arm them with useful data for the future.
After all, it’s the oceans that create the conditions that form hurricanes. This new technology will be able to directly measure the conditions that lead to various categories of hurricanes.
Hopefully, this means that in the coming years, their predictions will be all the more accurate. Or even better yet, new solutions will be on the table to counteract and weaken these storms.
The NOAA’s next update regarding the threat to the Atlantic coast will arrive just prior to the peak of the season in early August.
To put this report in perspective, it’s worth remembering what 2020 looked like. The NOAA predicts 2021 to have 20 named storms, 3-5 of which will be major hurricanes. 2020 had 30 named storms total, with a record-tying 7 becoming major hurricanes.
Basically, 2020 was significantly worse, almost doubly so, than 2021 is being projected. But this is perhaps looking at the situation a bit too simply.
In 2020, 11 of the 30 named storms made landfall in the United States. This broke a record, set in 1916 when 9 made landfall. Who is to say that 2021 won’t be a record year in this regard? There isn’t sufficient data to predict how many of 2021’s 20 named storms will reach us and potentially cause unfathomable damage.
Even though science is backing up these predictions, they’re still only predictions. The NOAA even states that they’re only 70% confident in this report.
All the CSU could say is that they “anticipate an above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean.”
Therefore, staying vigilant and being prepared is still the word. The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) advises downloading the FEMA app and signing up to receive alerts and advice on how to prepare. FEMA also advises purchasing flood insurance to protect your home and encourage your friends, neighbors, and co-workers to join you.
It is worth noting that you can save significantly on insurance premiums by installing hurricane impact windows, doors, and shutters.
FEMA also recommends you monitor developing storms by visiting the National Hurricane Center’s website.
We at Wrights Impact Window & Door take no pleasure in seeing results like this year after year. But we do have a renewed purpose in doing our best to help our community stay safe as these threats to our homes continue to persist.
We are proud to serve all of South Florida, supplying and installing hurricane windows and doors designed to withstand winds of over 200 miles per hour. And given how 2021 is shaping up to be the sixth consecutive year of above-normal storms hitting our shores, we’re proud that our products are built to last.