The 2021 hurricane season is approaching.
Here at DFB, we keep a close eye on these storms so you know how they may impact your Disney World vacation. And with the season starting soon — on June 1st, to be exact — we’re taking a look at the first formal prediction.
Keep in mind that while the official hurricane season does begin on June 1st, the last 6 consecutive Atlantic hurricane seasons have started with storms prior to this date — and it’s looking like 2021 will be no exception. Now, Colorado State University (CSU) has predicted an “above-average Atlantic hurricane season in 2021,” citing the absence of El Nino as a primary factor.
According to CSU, the tropical Pacific currently has La Nina conditions (although they are weak), so water temperatures are cooler than normal. This means that El Nino conditions, which help break apart hurricanes as they form, will likely not be present for the peak of hurricane season. We should also see much warmer water in the tropical and subtropical Atlantic, which favors an active season.
The CSU Tropical Meteorology Project is currently predicting 17 named storms throughout the season (June 1st to November 30th). Eight are expected to become hurricanes, while 4 are predicted to reach “major hurricane strength.” That means sustained winds will be 111 miles per hour or greater. We’ve previously informed you that the average number of storms for a season is 14 with seven hurricanes, although CSU lists a slightly lower average. Either way, we’re expecting higher-than-normal activity this year.
But just how active will this season be? Colorado State experts are predicting that hurricane activity this year will be about 140% of the average season. To put that into perspective for you, last year’s activity was 170% of the average season (with 6 landfalling continental U.S. hurricanes). So while it will be a busier season than usual, we shouldn’t reach last year’s levels.
Landfalling probability — which is the probability that a major hurricane will make landfall — is 69% for the entire U.S. coastline and 45% for the East Coast (that includes the Florida peninsula). The average over the last century for that East Coast prediction is just 31%.
In addition to these predictions (and some other data we’ve evaluated), we’ve shared the chosen names of the some of the hurricanes! We’ll see another forecast update from the CSU team on June 3rd, and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will release predictions in May. We’ll be sure to keep you posted, so stay tuned to DFB!
Update: NOAA has now released its predictions for this upcoming season. According to their press release, they too are predicting “another above-normal Atlantic hurricane season.” Currently, NOAA notes that forecasters are predicting a 60% chance of an above-normal season, a 30% chance of a near-normal season, and a 10% chance of a below-normal season.
But, NOAA notes that experts are NOT expecting to see the historic level of storm activity that was seen in 2020.
Specifically, NOAA notes that this year there will be a likely range of 13-20 named storms, of which 6-10 could become hurricanes, including 3-5 of which could become major hurricanes (category 3, 4, or 5). These ranges are being provided with a 70% confidence.
NOAA notes that an “average” hurricane season is defined as one that produces 14 named storms, 7 of which become hurricanes, including 3 major hurricanes.
According to NOAA, El Nino Southern Oscillation conditions are “currently in the neutral phase.”
The acting NOAA administrator said, “Although NOAA scientists don’t expect this season to be as busy as last year, it only takes one storm to devastate a community.” Various NOAA officials referenced in the release urged people to take the time now to get ready and prepare their homes.
We’ll continue to keep an eye out for more updates and let you know what we find.
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Are you visiting Disney World during hurricane season? Let us know in the comments!