Warm water is a key indicator for tropical cyclone formation in the Atlantic Ocean, and with forecasted temperatures to be continually rising throughout the 2021 summer, it will translate to more fuel for tropical storms and hurricanes that inevitably develop.
“Our biggest concern is the fact that water temperatures across the Atlantic are already warmer than normal over a larger part of the basin,” said AccuWeather Hurricane Expert Dan Kottlowski, who has been forecasting the tropics for 45 years.
2021 is expected to be an above-normal season for tropical activity in the Atlantic. A normal season is considered to have 14 storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
Last year, 13 hurricanes formed, and six of those reached the major hurricane threshold.
In terms of the number of storms that will directly impact the mainland U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands, three to five are expected, according to Kottlowski’s team. The annual average number of direct impacts is 3.5.
Paul Pastelok, who leads AccuWeather’s team of long-range forecasters, thinks overall impacts from tropical systems in 2021 is expected to be a bit lower than the past few years, but it is not zero.
“We do feel there could be a named storm in June, but the way the pattern is setting up in June in the eastern U.S.,” Paul Pastelok, who leads AccuWeather’s team of long-range forecasters, thinks anything that might develop “may be forced away from the coast or head well down to the south towards Mexico or South Texas.”
The other zone where there is an elevated threat for a tropical strike stretches from the Atlantic coast of Florida through the Carolinas.
This does not necessarily mean that the central Gulf Coast (Louisiana had two terrible strikes in 2020) will be completely safe from tropical systems. However, forecasters believe the overall chance of a landfalling tropical storm or hurricane will be lower than it was in 2020.
They are predicting 16 to 20 named storms, 7 to 10 hurricanes and three to five direct hits on the U.S. A typical season features 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three or four U.S. landfalls.
As residents who live along stretches of the Gulf Coast and Atlantic Seaboard will need to prepare for potential impacts from tropical systems, those across the north-central U.S. should brace for an uptick in severe weather events.
The Storm Prediction Center (SPC) reported 253 tornadoes in 2021 as of April 23, below the average of around 400 for late April. However, AccuWeather forecasters believe that a big uptick in tornado activity will occur in May and June.
AccuWeather is predicting between 1,300 and 1,400 twisters by the end of 2021. This is slightly higher than the number of tornadoes in 2020 and right around the average of 1,383, according to SPC data.