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Future hurricane seasons might start earlier, but not because of climate change
By Divina Ramirez // Mar 21, 2021

The Atlantic hurricane season doesn't officially start until June 1, but that may change very soon. A committee at the National Hurricane Center (NHC), part of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), has discussed whether the start date of the hurricane season should be moved to May 15.


Michael Brennan, a senior hurricane specialist at the center, noted that the change was part of the agency's effort to respond to the increasing tendency for storms to form ahead of the internationally agreed-upon start date.

For instance, over the past six hurricane seasons, named storms formed weeks ahead of June 1. Therefore, the change would only reflect the reality that the Atlantic hurricane season hasn’t started in June in years.

Coincidentally, NOAA's Central Pacific Hurricane Center (CPHC) in Honolulu will also be issuing bulletins for storms that form in the Pacific Ocean beginning May 15. These bulletins will help keep the public, government officials and meteorologists informed about potential tropical systems, named storms and bigger storms.

Hurricane season could start earlier

Over the past 10–15 years, named storms have formed prior to June 1 approximately 50 percent of the time. The date used to be a more accurate estimation in the mid-1960s when hurricane reconnaissance planes would conduct routine trips into the Atlantic to spot and monitor storm development.

But over time, the June 1 start date has become less reliable. Climate alarmists claim the shift is due to climate change, arguing that greenhouse gas emissions fuel the earlier formation of storms and more intense ones at that.

Although it's true that storms are forming weeks earlier than the start date, experts have said that climate change is not to blame. During the 2020 hurricane season, the NHC had to issue 36 special forecasts prior to June 1. But weather scientists pointed out that how storms are defined and observed had changed significantly over time.

Dennis Feltgen, a meteorologist at the NHC, told BBC Weather that many of the storms that form weeks prior to June 1 are short-lived systems. Moreover, many of these short-lived storms are being identified more frequently because of better monitoring systems and policy changes that allow the naming of sub-tropical storms.

In other words, more storms aren't forming ahead of the hurricane season, rather experts are now doing a better job detecting them.

There is also no real evidence that earlier storms are the result of a warming world. In its assessment last year, NOAA said in a statement that it is "premature to conclude with high confidence" that increasing atmospheric greenhouse gas concentrations from human activities have had a huge impact on hurricane activities.

Brian McNoldy, a hurricane expert at the University of Miami's Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, notes that there was a 12–19 percent increase in named storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes since the 1980s.

But there were also several inactive hurricane seasons between 1981–1990 and several active ones from 2011–2020. The shift from these two periods could explain the increase in the number of storms in recent times.

Even if the NHC were to push through with changing the official start date of the hurricane season, the "heart" of the Atlantic hurricane season will remain from August through October. That's according to Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist in the department of atmospheric sciences at Colorado State University.

The forecasts for the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season have yet to be issued. Klotzbach said it could be an above-average season in terms of named storms and hurricanes that will form. (Related: Louisiana and parts of Texas evacuate residents as Tropical Storm Laura intensifies.)

Go to ClimateScienceNews.com to learn more about hurricanes and other kinds of tropical storms.

Sources include:



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