Atlantic tropical storms increasing in number, NOAA update

Weather News

COLUMBUS, Oh. (WCMH) — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has confirmed that the number of tropical storms and hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin has increased in recent decades. NOAA reported no change in the number of storms developing in the Pacific Ocean since the late 20th century.

New 30-year averages (1991-2020) released by NOAA Friday indicate that the annual Atlantic storm season results in an average of 14 named storms (sustained winds of 39 mph or greater), including seven hurricanes (74 mph or greater), and three major hurricanes 111 mph or greater).

The previous 30-year mean (1981-2010), which is updated at the end of every decade, totaled 12 named storms, six becoming hurricanes. The average tally of major hurricanes remained the same.

Improved satellite technology and observational data is partly responsible for the increasing number of storms. Scientists point to warmer seawater as an important factor, which fuels rapidly intensifying hurricanes. Atlantic Hurricane activity has generally been in a active cycle since 1995, coinciding with warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures.

The traditional Atlantic hurricane season, which includes storms forming in the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean Sea, runs from June 1 until Nov. 30, although tropical storms have occurred earlier and later than those dates. In the past decade, there have been an unusual number of late May tropical storms, though few have made landfall.

The 2020 Atlantic hurricane was historic, generating a record 30 names storms, including 13 hurricanes, and a record 12 landfalling hurricanes in the U.S.. There were six major hurricanes in the Atlantic Basin, one shy of the 2005 record.

A record five tropical cyclones made landfall in Louisiana, the worst being Laura that struck the Texas-Louisiana border on Aug. 27, packing one-minute sustained winds of 150 mph. The storm took at least 42 lives near the Gulf Coast.

Hurricane Laura nears the Gulf Coast Aug. 26, 2020, as a Category 4 hurricane. (GOES-16/NOAA image)

The last six years have brought above-average storm activity in the Atlantic basin, and predictions released by Colorado State University projected another busy year in 2021, with 17 named storms and eight hurricanes, including four major storms.

Conditions this year are favorable for an active storm season. A weakening La Nina — cool water in the tropical Pacific that favors a weaker wind shear over the Atlantic that tears apart towering storm clusters — and warmer-than-normal Atlantic sea surface temperatures.

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