NOAA Anticipates Above-Normal 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) anticipates an active 2021 hurricane season, with the odds favoring 13-20 named storms through November 30th. Of these 6-10 are expected to reach hurricane status and 3-5 are anticipated to be major hurricanes (category 3 or higher). A typical Atlantic hurricane season will see 13 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes.


NOAA’s 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


How Hurricane Season Predictions are Made


NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center’s (CPC) prediction was largely driven by warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the subtropical Atlantic Ocean and the current ENSO conditions. Tropical cyclones thrive off of warm ocean waters above 80°F, which is prevalent between June and November. As a storm travels over warmer oceans, it absorbs more energy in the form of water vapor and heat. This moisture fuels the intensification of hurricanes, leading to heavier rainfall and stronger winds. A recent end to La Niña conditions, alongside ENSO-neutral conditions now expected for the majority of the hurricane season, also influenced the above-average prediction. La Nina and ENSO-neutral conditions typically correlate with active hurricane seasons given the tendency for these conditions to enhance cyclone development.


Record-Breaking 2020 Atlantic Hurricane Season


It was this time last year that we unknowingly entered what would be the most active hurricane season on record: 30 named storms, 12 of which made landfall in the continental United States. Come mid-September, the alphabetical list of names was already exhausted and forecasters were forced to switch to the Greek alphabet.


NOAA estimates that these tropical cyclone disasters cost the United States over $45 billion in damage and losses.


GOES-16 Satellite Imagery from September 14, 2020

Source: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration


In recent years, tropical cyclones have been forming before the start of the season, as well as after the end of the season. This year marked the 7th in a row that this has occurred, with the formation of Tropical Storm Ana ten days before the official start of the season. Climate change is another likely driver of these stranger and more active hurricane seasons, as warming water temperatures incubate more –– and more dangerous –– storms. As surface and ocean temperatures continue to rise, it is likely that the frequency, intensity, and out-of-season development of hurricanes will become the new normal.


Active Start to the 2021 Season


Forecasters at the NHC are already monitoring several disturbances in the Atlantic and Pacific Basins. Tropical Storm Bill developed off the coast of Cape Hatteras on June 14th and traveled north-eastwards towards Newfoundland. Another area of low pressure in the southwestern Gulf of Mexico could develop tropical characteristics within the next few days as conditions are expected to be favorable.


Even the eastern Atlantic, which typically remains quiet until later in the season, is beginning to come to life with a strong disturbance moving off the coast of western Africa this week.


Supply Chain & Electrical Utility Impacts During Hurricane Season


When it comes to the transportation and electrical utilities, tropical cyclones can pose a major threat to operations. Strong winds, heavy rainfall, and storm surge can easily disrupt transportation routes and cause widespread and long-lasting power outages.


Freight delays are the most common transportation disruption during hurricane season. Both rain and wind affect vehicle performance and driver behavior differently. Heavy rain on its own can cause 14% slowdowns on highways, and strong winds can lead to debris and lower visibility. But it’s the combination of both at an extreme level, as seen during hurricanes, that can lead to significant issues and delays for the supply chain and logistics industry.


Power and utilities are susceptible to significant issues during tropical storms and hurricanes as well. The combination of heavy rains and high wind can loosen soil to more easily bring down trees and power lines.


Nearly 10 years ago, Hurricane Sandy’s 80 mph sustained winds knocked out power for more than 8 million people across the Mid-Atlantic and Northeast, with some outages lasting up to 10 days.


Hurricane Sandy Total Power Outages

Source: U.S. Energy Information Administration


More recently Tropical Storm Isaias knocked out power for more than 2 million people across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut in the beginning of August. This was the second largest power outage in Con Edison history, with much of the impact blamed on a storm that far exceeded expectations.


What you can do to prepare for this season


For businesses and people alike, it’s important to have a plan in place during hurricane season. Forecasts from NOAA and the NHC can give you proactive warnings before tropical storms or hurricanes impact your area, and should be checked weekly.


However, utilizing weather intelligence is a must for supply chain and electrical utility companies. Not only can these insights be life-saving for workers, but they can also save you significant operational time and money.


WeatherOptics offers actionable impact data specifically designed to increase visibility for transportation and power and utility companies.


RightRoute, launched last hurricane season, leverages data from more than 40 million connected Otonomo vehicles to give you a 7 day lead time on when delays, accidents, and road closures are likely to occur, improving ETA accuracy by up to 40%.


WeatherOptics Impact Portal – RightRoute


The WeatherOptics Power Outage Index predicts the likelihood of power outages for all of North America out to 7 days in advance by utilizing ground-truth outage information and real environmental factors like tree canopy and elevation. Knowing what areas will be most susceptible to power outages ahead of a tropical event can help companies restore power faster and keep workers safe, while saving you from wrestling with raw weather forecasts.


To learn more about how you can leverage our weather intelligence this hurricane season, visit https://www.weatheroptics.co/api or reach out to us directly at info@weatheroptics.co