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Early prediction of busy hurricane season this year

Structural cost: a residential roof damaged during last year’s Hurricane Paulette (Photograph submitted)

An early forecast has predicted another busy hurricane season this year after a record-breaking 2020.

Colorado State University said in its first extended outlook of the next hurricane season that there was a 25 per cent chance of an extremely active season, and a 35 per cent chance of an above average season.

The report found there was a 30 per cent chance of a near-average season and just a 10 per cent chance of a below average season.

The start of the 2021 hurricane season is still months away, but CSU researchers made estimations based on the Atlantic multi-decadal oscillation – a cycle of weather activity in the region – and the likelihood of El Niño conditions.

A strong AMO increases the odds of an active hurricane season, but El Niño conditions make it more difficult for storms to form.

The report said that there was a 25 per cent chance that there would be a strong AMO and no El Niño – a combination which could result in a very busy season.

It added: “The Atlantic had three quiet hurricane seasons from 2013 to 2015, followed by a slightly above-average season in 2016, near record-breaking levels of activity in 2017 slightly above-average seasons in 2018 and 2019 and an extremely active season in 2020.

“Five above-average seasons lends high confidence that the AMO remains in a positive phase, although the far North Atlantic has generally been characterised by below-average sea surface temperatures, especially during the winter.

“Another big question for 2021 is how El Niño-Southern Oscillation will trend over the next few months. As is typically the case at this time of year, there is considerable model disagreement as to what the phase of ENSO will look like for the summer and fall of 2021.”

CSU researchers found that it was likely that El Niño – which is fuelled by warm water in the Pacific – would not form in 2021, although it remained a possibility.

The team said the worst case scenario featured 14 to 17 named storms, including four to five major hurricanes that could reach Category 3 strength.

The report added there was a 35 per cent chance of an above average AMO and no El Niño, which could mean an above average season with 12 to 15 named storms with two or three major hurricanes.

The next most likely possibility – 20 per cent – was an above average AMO with El Niño in effect, which would result in a near-average season with as many as 11 named storms and one or two major hurricanes.

A below average AMO without El Niño was less likely at 10 per cent, but would also result in an average number of storms.

The report found that there was also a 10 per cent chance of a weak AMO with El Niño conditions, which would result in a quieter season with just five to seven named storms and no more than one major hurricane.

The 2020 hurricane season was the busiest on record with a total of 30 named storms including 13 hurricanes and six major hurricanes.

Bermuda did not escape completely unscathed, as Hurricane Paulette made a direct hit on September 14, followed a week later by Hurricane Teddy, which brushed past the island.

Hurricane Epsilon threatened the island in October, but steered clear of the island, although it brought Bermuda high winds.

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Published January 26, 2021 at 8:00 am (Updated January 25, 2021 at 3:41 pm)

Early prediction of busy hurricane season this year

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