At least one named tropical system has formed in the Atlantic prior to June 1 — the official start of the season — every year for the past 6 years.
Because of this, the National Hurricane Center has decided that beginning this year officials there will issue their routine ‘tropical weather outlook’ forecasts starting on May 15, rather than June 1, which is when the season formally begins. That means the June 1 start date now just becomes a formality more than anything else.
The goal is to better serve the communities impacted by early-season tropical systems.
“We are going to issue the Atlantic Outlook, the actual outlook product where you have the blobs on the website, we’re going to start that on May 15th instead of June 1st because we want to make sure we get that information out and start having those areas of concern,” says Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center. “We’re going to do that a little earlier which is a better service.”
The Atlantic is not the only ocean basin that has seen pre-season tropical activity in recent years.
May 15 is already the official start to eastern Pacific hurricane season, and it is off to a running start this year. Nearly one week ago Tropical Storm Andres was named after it formed over 600 miles south of Baja California.
Andres became the record earliest tropical storm to ever form during the satellite era in the eastern Pacific, surpassing Adrian in 2017 which formed on May 10.
If a storm forms early, it’s not necessarily cause for worry. A pre-season storm doesn’t always mean the season will be busy. In fact, in the Atlantic basin back in 2015, Ana became the first named storm of the season on May 7, but the whole season only ended up slightly below average with 11 total named storms. However, in 2020, the first storm, Arthur, was named on May 16th, two weeks prior to the start of the season, which was relentless and went on to be the busiest hurricane season in modern history.
But if no storm forms in the Atlantic in the next two weeks, it also doesn’t mean this season won’t be active. Forecasters actually think it will be another very busy season.
Another busy season forecast for the Atlantic
One of those highly respected entities is Colorado State University, which was the first entity to issue a seasonal tropical forecast. Experts there issued their forecast back on April 8 indicating 17 total named storms, eight of which are expected to be hurricanes. They will issue an updated forecast on June 3. These updates are important as they allow any changes to be added into the forecast.
For example, the Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has announced that La Nina has officially ended. This is important because La Nina, and its counterpart El Nino, have significant impacts on tropical seasons in both the Atlantic and Pacific basins.
According to the CPC, there is a less than 10% chance of having El Nino conditions at any point for the remainder of this year. This is not what you want to hear regarding the Atlantic basin.
El Nino is typically preferred for the Atlantic basin as it helps to inhibit tropical development and enhancement. Having neutral conditions, or La Nina conditions, means that there is no real widespread influence to help restrict tropical development.
NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center will issue its 2021 seasonal hurricane outlook for both the Atlantic and EPAC basins on May 20, just ahead of the official start of the hurricane season on June 1st.
Regardless of whether there are 20 named storms this year or 10, it only takes one storm to be impactful. Which is why it is crucial to start preparing for hurricane season now.
“You can also make a list of items to replenish hurricane emergency supplies and start thinking about how you will prepare your home for the coming hurricane season,” the hurricane center advises.