Forecasters at Colorado State University are upping their predictions after a record-setting start to the 2021 hurricane season, with the new forecast calling for one of the most active seasons on record and putting the U.S. at a high risk—68%—of being struck by a major hurricane in the coming months.
The predicted number of named storms rose from 18 to 20, the amount of hurricanes rose from eight to nine and the number of major hurricanes forecasted remained unchanged at four.
If the forecast pans out, 2021 would become only the fourth season since record-keeping started in 1851 to produce 20 or more named storms.
This season is off to the most rapid start in history, after Tropical Storm Elsa formed over the Atlantic on July 1—the earliest date a fifth named storm has spawned on record.
The storm was centered over North Carolina early Thursday afternoon, and is expected to move back over the Atlantic before making another landfall in New England on Friday.
“As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them,” Colorado State forecasters noted. “They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted.”
Elsa’s development over the tropical Atlantic and its brief intensification into a hurricane was an unusual occurrence for early July—one that is “typically associated with very active Atlantic hurricane seasons,” according to Colorado State. Environmental conditions like above-average sea surface temperatures also lead forecasters to believe this season is shaping up to be another one for the history books. It comes on the heels of a 2020 season that was the most active ever recorded, bringing 30 named storms, 14 hurricanes and seven major hurricanes—defined as Category 3 or higher. The new forecast from Colorado State puts it on the high end of the official federal government forecast, which was released in May and called for 13-20 named storms. An updated federal forecast will be released in early August. Colorado State’s research has long been considered among the most reliable in hurricane forecasting, with its first seasonal forecast being released in 1984.
What To Watch For
It’s still a long way off from the historical peak of the Atlantic hurricane season, which comes on Sept. 10.