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Colorado State University researchers predicting above-average 2021 Atlantic hurricane season

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Posted: Monday, April 26, 2021. 8:02 am CST.

By Aaron Humes: The 2021 hurricane season, now a month away, is projected to be above-average but not as active as last year’s, according to researchers at
Colorado State University.

There are a combination of factors involved including warmer subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures on average and correspondingly cooler conditions in the Pacific.

While these waters may warm slightly during the next few months, CSU does not currently anticipate El Niño for the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season. El Niño tends to increase upper-level westerly winds across the Caribbean into the tropical Atlantic, tearing apart hurricanes as they try to form.

While the tropical Atlantic currently has water temperatures near their long-term averages, the warmer-than-normal subtropical Atlantic typically forces a weaker subtropical high and associated weaker winds blowing across the tropical Atlantic. These conditions then lead to warmer waters in the tropical Atlantic for the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season.

The CSU Tropical Meteorology Project team is predicting 17 named storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to November 30. Of those, researchers expect eight to become hurricanes and four to reach major hurricane strength (Saffir/Simpson category 3-4-5) with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater.

So far, the 2021 hurricane season is exhibiting characteristics similar to 1996, 2001, 2008, 2011 and 2017. “All of our analog seasons had above-average Atlantic hurricane activity, with 1996 and 2017 being extremely active seasons,” said Phil Klotzbach, research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science and lead author of the report.

The team predicts that 2021 hurricane activity will be about 140 percent of the average season. By comparison, 2020’s hurricane activity was about 170 percent of the average season. The 2020 hurricane season had six land-falling continental US hurricanes, including Category 4 Hurricane Laura which battered southwestern Louisiana.

The Caribbean faces a 58 percent chance of storm landfall, higher than average and higher than any projected area of the United States.

The CSU team will issue forecast updates on June 3, July 8 and Aug. 5.

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