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Calm Before the Storm? Forecasters Add to Hurricane Predictions

NOAA: 7-10 hurricanes will still form out of 15-21 named storms (includes tropical storms). If true, 2021 will be a record sixth straight year of above-normal activity.

PALM BEACH, Fla. – The federal government continues to expect another active Atlantic hurricane season in 2021: seven to 10 hurricanes forming, according to an updated forecast released Wednesday.

An average season spawns seven hurricanes and peaks in August, September and October. If predictions hold true, it will be a record sixth straight year of above-normal activity.

Overall, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said 15 to 21 named storms will develop. That number includes tropical storms, which have wind speeds of 39 mph or higher. Storms become hurricanes when winds reach 74 mph.

Of the predicted hurricanes, three to five could be major, with wind speeds of 111 mph or higher.

The forecast is a slight increase from the one NOAA released in May, when forecasters said six to 10 hurricanes and 13 to 20 total named storms would form this year.

Already this year, five named storms have formed, including Hurricane Elsa, which spun up along the west coast of Florida in early July. Historically, only two named storms form on average by early August.

“After a record-setting start, the Atlantic 2021 hurricane season does not show any signs of relenting as it enters the peak months ahead,” NOAA administrator Rick Spinrad said.

Matthew Rosencrans, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center, said “a mix of competing oceanic and atmospheric conditions generally favor above-average activity for the remainder of the Atlantic hurricane season, including the potential return of La Niña in the months ahead.”

The La Niña pattern, marked by cooler-than-average sea water in the tropical Pacific Ocean, often increases hurricane activity in the Atlantic.

Atlantic sea water temperatures are not expected to be as warm as they were during the record 2020 season, when 30 named storms formed, according to NOAA. But reduced vertical wind shear and an enhanced west Africa monsoon favor above-average seasonal hurricane activity.

Hurricane forecasts from AccuWeather, Colorado State University and Weather.com agree that 2021 will experience higher activity.

The season runs through Nov. 30.

Copyright 2021, USATODAY.com, Doyle Rice, USA TODAY; and Kim Miller, The Palm Beach Post, contributing writer.