2021 hurricane season will end as the 3rd most active on record

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LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The 2021 hurricane season is not officially over until the end of November but the tropics are quiet and another named storm is looking unlikely.

Hurricane season starts on June 1st and ends on November 30th. This timeframe is when the tropics tend to be the most active, but it’s possible to see systems that occur outside of it. Tropical storm Ana formed in May of this year which is technically before the hurricane season starts. There is a trend of preseason hurricanes, for the last 7 years, there has been at least one named storm before June 1st.

2021 Atlantic storm names.

2021 hurricane season breakdown:

The beginning of the season started busy. There were four named storms that formed in the month of June, which is tied for the most on record. June storms included Bill, Claudette, Danny, and Elsa. Elsa was the first storm to strengthen into a hurricane. Elsa was a category one hurricane that made landfall in the panhandle of Florida as a weaker tropical storm.

July was quiet. There were no new storms formed.

August the activity picked back up, there were five named storms that formed. The first storm in August was Fred. Fred strengthened into a tropical storm and made landfall in the Florida panhandle. Grace then formed and became the first major hurricane of the season, reaching category three status. Grace impacted the Caribbean and eventually Mexico. Henri was the next storm, and it strengthened into a category one hurricane eventually weakening into a tropical storm before making a rare New England landfall.

Ida was the strongest and most deadly storm of the 2021 hurricane season. The storm caused 115 deaths and more than $65 billion in damage, making it the 6th costliest on record. For more on Hurricane Ida click here.

The final storms in August were tropical storms, Kate and Julian.

September is historically the busiest month of the hurricane season and this year was no exception. We saw nine storms form. Six of the nine storms only reached tropical storm strength. Stronger storms included Nicholas, Larry, and Sam.

Nicholas made landfall at a category one hurricane in Texas and then slowly weakened as it moved north into Louisiana. For more on Nicholas click here.

Larry was a powerful category three hurricane that ended up making landfall as a category one hurricane in Newfoundland Canada.

Sam was the most powerful hurricane of the season, reaching category four status with winds sustained at 155 mph. Luckily Sam made no landfall and eventually dissipated over the north Atlantic.

October was another quiet month with no new storms.

November has had one storm so far. Tropical storm Wanda formed over the north Atlantic and dissipated a few days later.

How does 2021 compare to average?

Overall the 2021 hurricane season will go down as one of the most active. The total storm count of 21 is well above the average of 14, but the intensity of the storms ended up being closer to normal. The chart above shows the total number of hurricanes that formed was exactly the average of seven and the number of major hurricanes (category three through five) finished with just one above normal.

2021 vs. 2020

Compared to last year the 2021 hurricane season felt calm. 2020 was the most active season on record with 31 named storms. When it comes to destruction, 2021 actually cause around $20-billion more in damages than 2020, most of which came from hurricane Ida.

The reason 2020 felt so much busier for us in Arkansas is that there were 11 storms that made landfall in the United States. The majority of those made landfall in the Gulf of Mexico with three of them passing through Arkansas. This year we saw no storms pass over the natural state.

Why have the past two hurricane seasons been so active?

Over the past two years, the ocean currents have been favorable for Atlantic hurricane production. We are currently in the La Nina phase of the ENSO (El Nino Southern Oscillation) current. La Nina is favorable for Atlantic hurricanes because there are weaker upper-level winds in the tropics. When upper-level winds are weak the hurricanes have a much easier time forming. Learn more on how La Nina affects hurricanes here.

Another factor is the warming climate. Warmer air temperatures lead to warmer sea surface temperatures, and warm water is what hurricanes need to strengthen.

Updated climatological averages for the Atlantic hurricane season.

The image above proves the warming climate is leading to more hurricanes. In the period between 1981 and 2010, we average 12 named storms each season compared to the 14 named storms between 1991 and 2020. It is likely we could see the number continue to increase as we head into the future.

To learn more about hurricanes click here.

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