After several quiet years, weather forecasters have been forecasting a more active hurricane season for several years now. Early forecasts put 2021 as another well above average season, though most do not think it will be as bad as the record breaking 2020 season.
Prior to 2016, Florida had gone a record ten years without a hurricane making landfall, that is until Hurricane Hermine hit Apalachee Bay in the Panhandle.
Though the official Atlantic Ocean hurricane season runs from June 1st to November 30th, it is not uncommon for storms to form before the start of the season, in April/May, or well beyond the end of the season right through to the following January.
In fact the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) are even thinking of moving the official start date forward to May 15th instead of June 1st and the National Hurricane Center (NHC) are going to start issuing hurricane season tropical weather outlooks from May 15th.
In 2012 both Alberto and Beryl formed in May and in 2015 Ana also formed in May. In 2016 Alex formed in January and Bonnie in May. In 2017, Arlene formed in April and in 2018, another storm called Alberto formed in late May. 2019 was no different with Andrea also forming in May.
2020 broke records again with three tropical storms already having formed by June 2nd, just two days into the official 2020 Hurricane Season. The storms then came thick and fast beating 2005 for many earliest named storm letters.
Hurricane predictions for 2021
Below are the latest predictions from some of the major meteorological institutions.
Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University
The team led by Philip J. Klotzbach from the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University (CSU) normally make their first predictions in April/May time and on April 8, 2021 they published their first extended range forecast.
This first quantitive forecast was for 17 named storms, 8 hurricanes with 4 becoming major hurricanes.
They were forecasting an above average season with a 69% chance of a major hurricane making landfall on the entire United States coastline with a 45% chance of landfall on the southeast coast including most of Florida, 44% on the Gulf coast from the Florida Panhandle westwards and 58% in the Caribbean.
They made further updates in early June and July with an increase in named storms to 20 and hurricanes to 9.
In their final forecast on August 5th they downgraded to 18 named storms, 8 hurricanes with 4 becoming major hurricanes.
They forecast the chances of a major hurricane making landfall on the entire coastline as 65% (average is 52% for last century) with a 40% chance (average is 31%) on the US east coast including Florida and 41% (average 30%) on the Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westwards.
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) usually put out their first predictions towards the end of May each year with a revised forecast in August.
This year they published a Tropical Weather Outlook (TWO) on May 15, 2021. In it they are saying that an average season based upon the last 30 years (1991 to 2020) now has 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes of which 3 are major hurricanes. This is 2 named storms and 1 hurricane higher than last years 30 year average (1990 to 2019).
For 2021 they have predicted an estimated 16 to 20 named storms, 7 to 10 hurricanes of which 3 to 5 could be major hurricanes.
This again put their worst case scenario slightly ahead of Colorado State University.
They are predicting warmer than average sea-surface temperatures and a weaker wind shear coupled with a neutral El Niño.
NOAA made their first official forecast on May 20 with 13 to 20 named storms of which 6 to 10 to become hurricanes and 3 to 5 of them to become major hurricanes.
This was followed by another forecast in early August when they predicted a slight increase with 15 to 21 named storms of which 7 to 10 to become hurricanes and 3 to 5 of them to become major hurricanes.
AccuWeather.com announced their first forecast on March 31, 2021 and this year they were predicting 16 to 20 named storms with 7 to 10 hurricanes of which 3 to 5 could become major hurricanes. This is well above average and mirrors NOAA’s first forecast.
They are also predicting that 3 to 5 storms will make landfall in the US.
The Weather Company
On April 27, 2021, The Weather Company released their first forecast for the 2021 season with 18 named storms, 8 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.
The Weather Company then revised their forecast slightly upwards on May 13, 2021 with 19 named storms, 8 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes.
Tropical Storm Risk
Tropical Storm Risk made their first early extended range forecast on December 9, 2020 with 16 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.
On April 13, 2021 they updated their forecast slightly predicting 17 named storms, 8 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes with 4 names storms and 2 hurricanes making landfall in the USA.
The next pre-season forecast is due on May 27, 2021.
Earth Networks who power WeatherBug are predicting 16 (+/- 4) named storms including 8 (+/-3) hurricanes of which 3 (+/- 1) could be major.
Joe Bastardi from CFACT.org has published his detailed 2021 forecast on April 7, 2021. In it he forecasts an especially dangerous season with 16 to 22 named storms, 9 to 13 hurricanes of which 3 to 6 will be major hurricanes.
He has also forecasted that 3 to 6 hurricanes will make landfall in the USA with 2 to 4 of them being major.
Both the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University team have often over estimated named storms and hurricanes in recent years but remember these are just predictions and 2020 took everyone by surprise.
It only takes one storm to do untold damage, just remember Andrew in 1992 or Katrina and Sandy more recently. 2017 ended up being far worse than anybody predicted.
In 1992 there were only seven named storms making it a “quiet” year but the first storm of the season, the category 5 Hurricane Andrew, hit Homestead near Miami before crossing over into the Gulf and onto Louisiana. Damage was estimated at $26 billion with around 65 people killed in total.
Storm names for 2021
Each year a set of names alternating between boys and girls is chosen by the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) for all named storms. Names are often re-used on a six year cycle but the names of particularly damaging hurricanes such as Katrina and Sandy are withdrawn and never used again.
The names for tropical storms and hurricanes in 2021 are as follows:
The names for tropical storms and hurricanes in 2022 are as follows:
Alex, Bonnie, Colin, Danielle, Earl, Fiona, Gaston, Hermine, Ian, Julia, Karl, Lisa, Martin, Nicole, Owen, Paula, Richard, Shary, Tobias, Virginie, Walter.
The letters Q, U, X, Y and Z are not used because of the shortage of suitable names, leaving 21 names each year.
In previous years, once the letter W was reached, the WMO used to start to use the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet starting with Alpha but in March 2021 they announced that they had stopped that approach and instead will take the names from an auxiliary list.
The first time this happened was in 2005 and they were used again in 2020. Unlike the normal names the WMO did not normally “retire” the Greek names.
A secondary set of names for 2021 has been allocated:
Adria, Braylen, Caridad, Deshawn, Emery, Foster, Gemma, Heath, Isla, Jacobus, Kenzie, Lucio, Makayla, Nolan, Orlanda, Pax, Ronin, Sophie, Tayshaun, Viviana, Will.
For the seventh year in a row, the first named storm of the season occurred before the official start of the season on June 1st.
Tropical Storm Ana formed on May 22 around 180 miles northeast of Bermuda with wind speeds of 45mph and started tracking west southwest at 3mph.
It was forecast to strengthen slightly as it quickly turned onto a northeasterly track.
Bermuda was under tropical storm watch but Ana was not expected to make landfall and by the following day it had weakened to a tropical depression before weakening further.
Tropical Depression #2 formed on June 14 off the coast of North Carolina. By June 15 it has strengthen to become the second Tropical Storm of the season as Tropical Storm Bill, with wind speeds of 45 mph tracking northeast at 23 mph.
It briefly strengthened to 60 mph as it continued to track northeast away from the US Atlantic coastline. By the following day it had weakened into an extratropical cyclone.
Potential Tropical Cyclone #3 formed on June 17 in the southern Gulf of Mexico off the coastline of Campeche and started tracking northwards at 9 mph across the Gulf towards New Orleans.
Tropical Storm warnings were issued from Intracoastal City, Louisiana, through Mississippi to the Alabama/Florida border. Heavy rainfall of up to 8 inches and flooding with a storm surge of up to 3 feet was forecast.
It came ashore just west of New Orleans as a cyclone on June 19 with gusts of up to 60 mph.
It was expected to strengthen and it became Tropical Storm Claudette as it passed over Houma, Louisiana with wind speeds of 45 mph tracking north northeast.
It passed through southern Mississippi and as it reached Alabama it weakened to a Tropical Depression tracking east northeast.
It passed over Atlanta, Georgia as it continued to track towards the Carolinas and on June 21, it strengthened again back into a Tropical Storm bringing heavy rain and flash flooding in its path. Tropical storm warnings have been issued for parts of the South Carolina coastline and the North Carolina Atlantic coastline.
Twelve people including eight children were killed in automobile crashes in Alabama that were attributed to the storm. In addition two people were killed by a falling tree.
Tropical Depression #4 formed off the coast of South Carolina on June 29 and within a few hours became Tropical Storm Danny. Tropical Storm warnings were issued for the coastline around Charleston.
It hit the coastline of South Carolina just north of Hilton Head on Pritchards Island with maximum sustained winds of 40 mph tracking west-northwest at 16 mph.
By the following morning it had weakened and dissipated over Georgia.
Tropical Depression #5 formed in the eastern Caribbean on June 30 moving westwards at 23 mph with wind speeds of 35 mph.
By the following day it had strengthened becoming Tropical Storm Elsa with wind speeds of 45 mph tracking west at 25 mph.
Over the next 48 hours it was expected to strengthen further as it headed towards St Vincent and Grenada. In fact by July 2 it had strengthened to become the first hurricane of the season and earliest fifth named storm whilst maintaining the same track with wind speeds of 75 mph.
Forecasts predicted it moving onto a more northwesterly track towards the Florida but weakening back to a Tropical Storm as it passes Haiti. In fact it weakened to a Tropical Storm as it passed the southern tip of the Dominican Republic and it passed between Haiti and Jamaica wind speeds were 65 mph tracking west northwest at 24 mph.
It made landfall in Cuba near Ciénaga de Zapata National Park about 80 miles from Havana and turned onto a more northerly heading towards Florida and the Gulf Coast. Over 180,000 people were evacuated in Cuba in the face of severe flash floods and mud slides.
Up to 15 inches of rain fell in some places.
Elsa tracked between Key West and the Dry Tortugas and as it passed Fort Myers, it briefly became a category 1 hurricane for the second time.
Skirting Sarasota and Tampa it brought storm surges along the Gulf coastal area. It made landfall near Steinhatchee in the Panhandle as it veered onto a more north easterly heading across the Carolinas.
Several tornadoes were recorded with up to 11 inches of rain in Punta Gorda. Elsa continued to track up the eastern Seaboard.
Tropical Storm and Hurricane warnings were issued for the southern portions of Haiti, Cuba, Jamaica and the Dominican Republic as well as portions of western Florida. Ron DeSantis declared a state of emergency in 15 counties.
Tropical Storm watches were in place for the Cayman Islands and the Florida Keys.
There have been a number of fatalities including one in St Lucia, two in the Dominican Republic and two in Haiti.
An area of disturbance (Potential Tropical Cyclone #6) tracked westwards across the Caribbean and became Tropical Storm Fred on August 11 south of Puerto Rico.
It tracked west northwest with wind speeds of 40 mph as it approached the Dominican Republic. It weakened to a Tropical Depression and skirted the north coast of Cuba before coming ashore again at Cayo Cruz.
It strengthened back to a Tropical Storm as it approached west of the Florida Keys on August 14 and tracking up the Gulf coast of Florida. It was expected to make landfall near Pensacola in the Florida Panhandle as a Tropical Storm with gusts of up to 70 mph but in the early stages it was pushed further westwards towards the Alabama border.
Initially Tropical Storm warnings were issued for the Florida Keys and a state of emergency declared for 23 counties in Florida. Rainfall of up to 8 inches was predicted to fall across South Florida and along the Gulf coast.
With the westward shift in its track, the storm warnings were cancelled but new Tropical Storm warnings were issued for the Alabama/Florida border east to Ochlockonee River. As much as 12 inches of rain is expected to fall with strong storm surges.
In the end Tropical Storm Fred veered onto a northerly track earlier than predicted and made landfall east of Pensacola near Cape San Blas with wind speeds of 65 mph.
Some 40,000 homes were left without power and at least one death has been reported in Florida.
Tropical Depression #7 formed several hundred miles east of the Leeward Islands on August 13 and by the following day it became Tropical Storm Grace, the seventh named storm of the season.
It was forecast to follow a similar path the Tropical Storm Fred over the coming days as it tracked westward with wind speeds of 40mph. It was expected to take a slightly more northerly course and make landfall in the Florida Keys but it has been pushed south of Puerto Rico.
By August 15 it had weakened into a Tropical Depression as it skirted the southern coastlines of the Dominican Republic and Haiti where it dropped up to 10 inches of rain. It was expected to strengthen back to a Tropical Storm as it continued on a westerly track south of Cuba heading for the Mexican coastline.
On August 18 as it passed by the Cayman Islands, it strengthened to a category 1 hurricane with wind speeds of 75 mph tracking west northwest at 15 mph.
It strengthened further with gusts of over 100 mph as it came ashore near Tulum on the Yucatan Peninsula on August 19. Hurricane warnings were issued for north of Cancun to Cabo Catoche and from south of Punta Herrero to Puerto Costa Maya.
It weakened whilst over land but was expected to become a category 1 hurricane once again as it tracked across the Gulf of Mexico towards Casitas on the eastern mainland Mexico coast.
Early on August 21 it strengthened into a category 3 hurricane, the first major hurricane of the season. It came ashore south of Tuxpan, with wind speeds of 120 mph and at least 8 deaths have been reported.
The third storm in a week, Tropical Depression #8 formed east of Bermuda tracking south on August 16.
It was forecast to turn around Bermuda in the next 24 hours strengthening into a Tropical Storm. By August 17 it had become a tropical storm and was tracking south southwest. By the following day it had turned onto a westerly heading with wind speeds of 65 mph.
Forecasts had it doing a complete 180 degree turn towards the North by August 20 and become the third hurricane of the season.
On August 21 it strengthened to a category 1 hurricane with winds speeds of 75 mph tracking towards Long Island. After 24 hours is weakened slightly back to a Tropical Storm shifting its track slightly eastwards and it passed just west of Block Island before coming ashore near Westerly, Rhode Island.
Over 120,000 homes were left without power, coupled with flash flooding and storm surges.
Tropical Depression #9 formed south west of Jamaica on August 26, tracking north west at 13 mph and quickly strengthened into Tropical Storm Ida, the ninth storm of the season.
It passed over the north eastern tip of the Cayman Islands on August 27 tracking north west at 12 mph. It is expected to strengthen with winds of 70 mph as it approaches western Cuba.
By August 28 it was forecast to become a hurricane and by the following day it approached the Louisiana coast as a major category 4 hurricane with wind speeds of 150 mph.
In the end it hit the coastline near Port Fourchon, south of New Orleans on the 16th anniversary of the deadly category 3 Hurricane Katrina that left over 1,800 people dead in New Orleans.
Hurricane watches were in place for the northern Gulf coast with the risk of life-threatening storm surges from Louisiana through Mississippi to Alabama.
Storm surges of 10 to 15 feet were anticipated from Morgan City, Louisiana to the mouth of the Mississippi River. Mandatory evacuation orders were in place for unprotected areas of New Orleans outside of the protective levees.
Hurricane Ida left widespread destruction and flooding in its path with over 1 million homes left without power in Louisiana including all of New Orleans and a further 100,000 in Mississippi.
As of September 13, 130,000 residents are still without power.
After 16 hours it weakened to a tropical storm but still caused a lot of damage as it moved towards New York.
So far at least 26 deaths have been attributed to the hurricane in Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi with over 45 deaths from flash flooding after up to 8 inches of rain in places in the northeast around New York and New Jersey.
On August 29, Tropical Depression #11 formed over 800 miles east of Bermuda tracking northeast at 12 mph. Like Tropical Depression #10 it was forecast to strengthen into a Tropical Storm and it did so the same day, beating TD #10.
Tropical Storm Julian is tracking northeast at 17 mph with wind speeds of 50 mph.
Over the next couple of days it was expected to veer westwards onto a more north westerly track towards Greenland but it quickly dissipated into a Post-Tropical Cyclone.
Tropical Depression #10 formed on August 28 around 700 miles east of the island of St Lucia in the Caribbean tracking north northwest at 7 mph.
Within 48 hours it had developed into a Tropical Storm, the eleventh of the season.
Tropical Storm Kate is tracking northwards at 8 mph with wind speeds of 45 mph and will continue in a northerly direction over the next few days.
By August 31, Tropical Storm Kate had weakened back to a Tropical Depression.
Tropical Depression #12 started tracking westwards off the coast of Guinea-Bissau in West Africa on September 1.
It quickly became Tropical Storm Larry, the 12th storm of the season with winds speeds of 45 mph, tracking due west at 20 mph.
By September 2, it had strengthened to become a hurricane as it continued to track westwards at 20 mph. Over the next 48 hours it continued to strengthen and become the third major hurricane of 2021.
It became a category 3 hurricane tracking west northwest at 16 mph with wind speeds of 115 mph. By September 5 it was forecast to become a category 4 hurricane but it remained a category 3.
Its present track has taken is close to Bermuda as it weakened to a category 2 hurricane with wind speeds of 100 mph. Tropical Storm warnings were issued for Bermuda.
It veered onto a northerly heading before turning towards the east. On September 11 it made landfall in near South East Bight in Eastern Newfoundland as a category 1 hurricane with wind speeds of 80 mph. It knocked out power to around 30,000 homes.
After leaving Newfoundland it weakened to a post-tropical cyclone.
It has not directly impacted the Caribbean or Florida but strong rip currents were evident along the east Atlantic coastline.
Tropical Storm Mindy formed on September 8 in the Gulf of Mexico in the Florida Panhandle.
It came ashore near Port St Joe the following day with wind speeds of 45 mph tracking northeast at 21 mph but quickly weakened to a Tropical Depression.
It then moved across Georgia into the Atlantic Ocean as a tropical depression, south of Savannah.
Like Mindy before it, Tropical Storm Nicholas formed in the Gulf of Mexico off Veracruz on September 13 with wind speeds of 60 mph and started tracking north northwest at 12 mph.
It was forecast to strengthen slightly before making landfall near Sargeant Beach on the Matagorda Peninsula in Texas on September 14 and it came ashore as a category 1 hurricane with wind speeds of 75 mph.
It is expected to weaken back to a tropical storm as it approaches Houston before it veers onto a more easterly track across Louisiana.
Tropical Storm warnings and storm surge warnings are in place for the Texas coastline and a State of Emergency has been declared in Louisiana.
On September 18, Tropical Storm Odette formed off the coast of Norfolk and is tracking northeast at 10 mph with wind speeds of 40 mph.
It is expected to continue on this track away from the US coastline over the coming days.
Tropical Depression #16 formed on September 19, east of Northern Leeward Islands.
It is passing well north of the Lesser Antilles as it tracks west northwest at 15 mph with wind speeds of 45 mph.
It was then expected to turn onto a northerly track heading towards Bermuda but not expected to strengthen and it quickly weakened.
Hot on the heels of Tropical Storm Peter, Tropical Depression #17 formed off the Cabo Verde islands.
By September 20 it strengthened to a tropical storm tracking northwest with wind speeds of 40 mph.
By September 23 it had deteriorated to a Post Tropical Cyclone.
Tropical Depression #18 formed on September 22 off the Cabo Verde islands and quickly strengthened into Tropical Storm Sam, the 18th storm of the season.
It was forecast to become a major hurricane over the coming days as it tracked westwards towards the Eastern Caribbean.
By September 24 it had become a category 1 hurricane and it continued to strengthen to become a category 2 hurricane with wind speeds of 100 mph by the following day.
By September 26 it had reached major hurricane status as a category 4 hurricane with gusts of up to 160 mph. It is expected to remain a major hurricane for at least 5 days as it slowly tracks west northwest at around 8 mph.
As hurricane season hots up, Tropical Storm Teresa formed on September 24 due north of Bermuda tracking west northwest.
It is forecast to veer onto a northerly track but is expected to quickly dissipate.