2021 Hurricane Season is Here, NOAA Predicts It Will Be “Above Normal”

Hurricane Irma. Image: NASA/NOAA GOES Project/William Straka III

by Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer

This year’s Atlantic hurricane season, which begins June 1 and lasts until Nov. 30, is about to bring a higher-than-average storm formation, just like last year, according to the NOAA. The agency predicted “above normal” hurricane activity, with a 70% probability of 13 to 20 named storms. Six to ten of those will become hurricanes, and up to five could strengthen into major hurricanes.

The first of these storms, Ana, a subtropical storm, formed on Saturday, before the start of the season, following a similar trend from last year. Due to this trend toward earlier storms, which is at least partly attributable to climate change and the Atlantic Ocean warming earlier, the US government’s National Hurricane Center has considered moving the start date of the season to May 15. 

 

Why This Matters: Evidence show that stronger, wetter storms are becoming more frequent, and climate change is driving this change. Researchers’ models have also shown that hurricanes during the past decade flooded coastal areas with 10% more rainfall due to climate change — and that number could rise to 30% before the end of the century.

Prior to 2020, the most active Atlantic hurricane season was in 2005, with 28 named storms. Then 2020’s hurricane season broke records with 30 named storms, using up the NHC’s list of names–causing widespread devastation

As climate change warms the oceans and hurricanes gain power and frequency, storm-addled communities and the government have to adjust to the new normal. This will entail better preparedness and recovery programs in storm-prone communities as well as a reassessment of where it’s safe to build and where it’s not. 

Predicting Storms: These predictions from the NOAA represent a new way to forecast hurricanes and a change in what an “average” hurricane season looks like. From now on, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center (CPC) will look at storm activity using a dataset from a new 30-year period: 1991 to 2020. This change not only represents improved storm detection but also higher levels of storm activity over the past three decades.

The Biden Administration Responds: The Biden administration plans to allocate $1 billion toward the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s (FEMA) fund for extreme weather preparation — a 100% increase. This money will go towards the Building Resilient Infrastructure and Communities (BRIC) program, a program that aims to address disasters in a more holistic way by preparing in advance rather than responding to individual disasters. 

As climate change threatens to bring more extreme events like increased floods, sea level rise, and intensifying droughts and wildfires, it is our responsibility to better prepare and support communities, families, and businesses before disaster — not just after,” the administration said in a statement.This includes investing in climate research to improve our understanding of these extreme weather events and our decision making on climate resilience, adaptation, and mitigation. It also means ensuring that communities have the resources they need to build resilience prior to these crises.”
According to the White House, the $1 billion will be allocated for communities, states, and Tribal governments into pre-disaster mitigation resources to prepare for extreme weather events and other disasters, and the Administration is also announcing the development of next generation climate data systems at NASA to help understand and track how climate change is impacting communities.

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