A LEADING ATLANTIC FORECAST CALLS FOR 17 NAMED STORMS, EIGHT HURRICANES AND FOUR MAJOR HURRICANES IN 2021
Florida escaped the record-breaking 2020 storm season without a single hurricane making landfall along its 1,350 miles of coastline. That luck has some scientists particularly worried about the 2021 season, however. Though it’s expected to be a far cry from the record 30 named storms that formed last year, Colorado State University predicts there will be 17 named storms, eight hurricanes and four major hurricanes in 2021.
Lead hurricane researcher Philip Klotzbach fears some Floridians won’t prepare as usual for this year’s storms after dodging so many in 2020. Florida has been hit by 121 hurricanes and 37 major hurricanes since 1851 — by far the most of any state. With another eight hurri-canes forecasted for 2021, it’s certainly possible that one or more will again find their way to the Sunshine State, Klotzbach said.
Colorado State scientists predict there is a 45 percent chance a major hurricane will strike Florida or the east coast, and a 44 percent chance of landfall anywhere from the Florida Panhandle to Texas along the Gulf Coast.
“Florida got really lucky last year given how many storms were out there,” Klotzbach said. “But now the big concern is that one of these storms is going to actually hit a major metro-politan area and cause massive amounts of damage. “That’s especially the case for Tampa- St. Petersburg, which is so, so prone to storm surge.”
Colorado State is a leading hurricane fore-caster, and its prediction dovetails with other important forecasts. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts an above-normal storm season with 13 to 20 named storms, 6 to 10 hurricanes and 3 to 5 major hur-ricanes in 2021. Private forecaster AccuWeather calls for 16 to 20 named storms this year.
Klotzbach emphasized that a direct hit to Tampa Bay is an infrequent occurrence. In fact, 2021 is the 100th anniversary of the last hurricane to strike the region, the 1921 Tampa Bay Hur-ricane aka the 1921 Tarpon Springs Hurricane. n starts June 1, Klotzbach said.
El Niño is a Pacific phenomenon that warms the waters there, creating strong wind shear over the tropical Atlantic that can disrupt storm for-mation. Its opposing weather pattern is La Niña, which is caused by cooler waters in the central and eastern Pacific and in turn significantly limits Atlantic wind shear.
The Pacific is currently in a weak La Niña event. There is a possibility of a shift to a neutral event ahead of the heart of hurricane season, Klotzbach said.
The neutral event would mean that “anything goes,” he said. The most destructive hurricane season in modern history, which included hurri-canes Katrina and Wilma, came under a neutral event in 2005. By contrast, another neutral event occurred in 2013, which produced just two hurricanes for the entire season.
“There is a larger range of outcomes when we have neutral conditions,” Klotzbach said. “But it’s better news than having La Niña, which was a big reason the end of the 2020 hurricane season was so active.”
As of the beginning of May, Klotzbach said some conditions from a year ago are present again: warmer subtropical Atlantic waters and the absence of El Niño, which will make conditions favorable for storm development.