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Hurricane Season 2021: What can we expect after record 2020?

The 2020 hurricane season was a record-breaker, and now it’s 2021 and it’s time again to prepare.
The 2020 hurricane season was a record-breaker, and now it’s 2021 and it’s time again to prepare.

The 2020 hurricane season was a record-breaker, and now it’s 2021 and it’s time again to prepare.

Last year brought the most named storms ever in the Atlantic — 30 — with 13 becoming hurricanes and six of them major. It was only the second time in history the Greek alphabet had to be used for names.

“We thought it was going to be active but it was even more active than we originally anticipated,” said Phil Klotzbach is a research scientist with Colorado State University.

CSU’s predictions for the upcoming hurricane season came out in April, forecasting 17 named storms, with eight becoming hurricanes and four of those major (Category 3 or stronger).

“We are forecasting a bit above normal this season,” Klotzbach said. “Our April forecast, like you noted, is very similar to what we said last year.”

But just because the prediction is similar to 2020 doesn’t mean the season will be a repeat.

Klotzbach says that’s where climate patterns El Niño and La Niña come in.

El Niño lends itself to less hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin due in large part to an increase in wind shear. Strong winds can prevent tropical disturbances from developing.

La Niña, on the other hand, does the opposite.

Jhordanne Jones, who co-authored the season forecast with Klotzbach, says that though La Niña may be neutral during the season, there’s another issue.

“We still have warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures,” she said. “And this is a huge deal. This is where hurricanes get their energy from. ... If we maintain these warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures, then we are definitely going to see hurricane activity.”

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration is also predicting an above-average season, with 13-20 named storms, 6-10 hurricanes, with 3-5 of those being major.

Last year, South Florida dodged most of the tropical systems, but the area did get rain and wind from Tropical Storm Isiais and Hurricane Eta, which developed late in the season.

Eta made landfall in the Florida Keys, and who can forget the destruction it brought to Central America along with Hurricane Iota.

“Those two storms really stood out. Remarkably intense storms and obviously caused an extreme amount of devastation in Central America,” Klotzbach said.

But it’s not all bad news.

“So the good news is we don’t expect it to be like 2020,” Jones said. “But the bad news is that we still do expect some kind of above-normal activity.”

Said Klotzbach: “You don’t have to have a storm make landfall in your county to make it a significant event.”

And his message stays the same: “Now’s the time to really prepare, have a plan in place, refresh your hurricane preparedness kit and then know what you’re going to do if a storm does threaten and follow the advice of your local emergency managers if one of these storms does threaten.”

CLICK HERE to view and download our 2021 Hurricane Survival Guide.

About the Author:

Betty Davis is the chief certified meteorologist for Local 10. She provides weather forecasts for South Florida Monday-Friday during the 4, 6 and 11 p.m. newscasts.