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Hurricane season, expected to be busier than normal, starts today


JAMAICA’S readiness for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season should be revealed today by Prime Minister Andrew Holness as the island prepares for a season which is projected to be busier than normal, but not as crazy as 2020’s record-shattering year.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is forecasting that the hurricane season, which runs from June through November 30, will see 13 to 20 named storms. Six to 10 of those storms will become hurricanes and three to five will be major hurricanes with winds of more than 110 mph (177 kilometres per hour).

Since 1990, a typical season sees 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes — a climate normal that has increased in recent decades.

There is a 60 per cent chance that this hurricane season will be busier than normal and only a 10 per cent chance it will be below normal, NOAA said.

Lead NOAA forecaster Matthew Rosencrans said the season looks to be busy because of warmer water, which fuels storms; reduced cross winds that decapitate storms; and more seeds of stormy weather coming off the coast of Africa.

There is also no El Nino weather event, the natural temporary warming of the central Pacific that squelches Atlantic hurricane activity, he said.

Atlantic waters are nearly 0.68 degrees (0.38 degrees Celsius) warmer than normal, which is not as hot as 2020 when they were just above normal.

Last year, there were 30 named storms — so many that meteorologists ran out of names and dipped into the Greek alphabet to identify them. There were 14 hurricanes last year, seven of them major.

Earlier this year, meteorologists decided to ditch the Greek alphabet after the normal list of names runs out, instead creating a special overflow list. Seven of last year’s storms caused more than US$1 billion in damage.

On cue, stormy weather popped up north-east of Bermuda last month, but Ana was short-lived and keep away from land.

Several universities and private weather companies also make hurricane season forecasts, with all of them echoing NOAA’s predictions. They predicted 16 to 20 named storms, seven to 10 hurricanes and three to five major hurricanes.

“The latest data and forecasts suggest a slightly more aggressive forecast for 2021 is in order, although still nothing close to what happened in 2020,” said Todd Crawford, chief meteorologist at The Weather Company, which is forecasting 19 named storms and four major hurricanes.

The Colorado State University forecast, which is the longest-running seasonal forecast, cited the same reasons as NOAA in predicting 17 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes. It said there is a 69 per cent chance that a major hurricane will hit somewhere in the US coastline this season, which is higher than the average of 52 per cent for the last century. It gives Florida and the Gulf coast a nearly 50-50 chance of being hit by a major hurricane.

The head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency urged Americans in hurricane-prone areas to prepare now, not later. Deanne Criswell said that includes people who live inland because storms are dropping more rain and causing more flooding due to climate change.

Names for 2021 Atlantic Hurricane season

• Ana

• Bill

• Claudette

• Danny

• Elsa

• Fred

• Grace

• Henri

• Ida

• Julian

• Kate

• Larry

• Mindy

• Nicholas

• Odette

• Peter

• Rose

• Sam

• Teresa

• Victor

• Wanda

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