November 30th officially marked the end of the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) accurately predicted an above-average season with 21 named storms. Subsequently, this year marks the sixth successive above-average season in a row. Additionally, it is the second season in a row to exhaust the list of storm names.

Recap

The season began early and intensified quickly. It is the seventh consecutive year where a storm developed before the official June 1st season start date. Tropical Storm Ana emerged just ten days before on May 22nd. The season totaled 7 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher). The strongest two storms were Ida and Sam at Category 4 strength. Grace and Larry peaked as Category 3 storms.

NOAA’s 2021 Atlantic Hurricane Season by the Numbers

Fewer storms made landfall in the US compared to last year. Nevertheless, the storms cost over $20 billion more. Hurricane Ida was the strongest Atlantic storm of the year to make landfall with maximum sustained winds of 150 mph near Port Fourchon, Louisiana. The damage cost exceeded all costs from the tropical cyclones that made landfall across the US in 2020. As a result, the storm so far is the costliest US natural disaster this year exceeding $60 billion USD. Ida will likely be the only name on the retired list this year due to the amount of damage. Interestingly, “I” already has more retired storms (12) than any other letter in the alphabet.
The next strongest storm Sam remained a Category 4 hurricane for 4.5 days.  It generated the fifth-highest accumulated cyclone energy recorded in the satellite era. Fortunately, unlike Hurricane Ida, Sam remained over open waters and never made landfall. Of note, Tropical Storm Ana became the first storm to form east of Bermuda during the month of May in the last 100 years. Typically, storms during this month form over the eastern Gulf of Mexico, western Caribbean Sea, and near the southeastern US coast.
Overall, the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane season was very active due to climate factors, including La Niña, above-normal sea surface temperatures, and above-average West African Monsoon rainfall.

New Technology

NOAA scientists successfully deployed five new extreme weather Saildrones to collect data throughout this year’s hurricane season. The first-ever video and measurements were captured at the surface of the ocean during a major hurricane. The technology handled 125 mph winds and 50-foot waves during Hurricane Sam. This data from Saildrones, ocean gliders, and aircraft-released sensors is helping NOAA to better represent forecast hurricane conditions.

NOAA’s Sailordrone Capturing Footage during Hurricane Sam

Next Year’s Forecast

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center will issue its initial seasonal outlook in May. Current climate trends suggest yet another active year.

Source: NOAA, CNN

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