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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) updated its 2021 Atlantic hurricane seasonal forecast on Wednesday, slightly raising expectations for the number of named storms and severe hurricanes.
Why is this important: With the United States already reeling from the extreme heat and wildfires, disaster response agencies are overwhelmed. A particularly destructive and active hurricane season could overwhelm part of its response capacity.
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Details: The updated forecast is based on conditions observed in the North Atlantic Ocean basin, including sea surface temperatures, upper winds, rainfall in West Africa and the potential development of another La Niña event in the tropical Pacific, among other factors.
This hurricane season follows the most active season on record in the North Atlantic Basin, with 30 named storms occurring in 2020, 12 of which hit the United States, setting a benchmark.
In numbers : NOAA predicts a 65% chance of an above-average season, with a 70% chance of 15 to 21 named storms. Of these named storms, NOAA predicts that between seven and ten will be hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes of Category 3, 4 or 5.
These numbers reflect the five named storms that have already formed this season, including the first named fifth storm on record for the Atlantic Basin (Hurricane Elsa).
As the season has slowed its pace since the first storms, NOAA meteorologist Matthew Rosecrans said the calm should not remain.
“NOAA forecasters predict that a busy hurricane season is ahead,” Rosecrans said.
NOAA typically updates its outlook when the peak of the hurricane season in August, September, and October begins.
Go back: Of the 30 named storms last year, 13 were hurricanes and seven were “major” hurricanes of at least Category 3 intensity.
The hardest hit region last year was the Gulf Coast, particularly central and western Louisiana, where two hurricanes struck land within 25 miles of each other at different times of the season.
Yes, but: NOAA has not cited climate change in this perspective.
However, the influence of climate change on tropical cyclones, which is the general term for tropical storms, hurricanes and typhoons, is increasingly detectable, according to scientific studies. Nearly a dozen storms in the Atlantic Ocean last year underwent a process known as rapid intensification, breaking through several intensity categories within hours.
In a warming world, more frequent episodes of rapid intensification are expected.
Additionally, hurricanes now move more slowly and may weaken more slowly once they pass through land. They’re also dropping more precipitation than before, thanks to the extra moisture from warmer ocean and air temperatures.
Other forecasting groups that publish a seasonal outlook have unanimously called for an above-average season, albeit less busy than 2020. These include Colorado State University, AccuWeather and Penn State University.
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