What’s new for the 2021 hurricane season

Tracking the Tropics

NEW ORLEANS — Forecasters have some new tools to track the tropics for the 2021 hurricane season.

One of the new tools was available before the official first day of the season.

“We are going to start issuing our outlook products, the tropical weather outlook, on May 15 instead of June 1,” says Ken Graham, director of the National Hurricane Center. “Now, it will match what we were already doing in the Pacific.”

The early tropical weather outlooks are a response to a string of years in which named storms formed before the official start of the hurricane season.

Why not start the hurricane season early? Graham says they will consider a calendar change next season.

Another change for the 2021 season is the elimination of the Greek alphabet as an overflow list. During two hurricane seasons, in 2005 and 2020, there were more storms than names. So, the NHC used the Greek alphabet to name storms. However, the NHC director says the Greek names did not translate well into other languages and caused confusion, particularly the name Zeta.

“Some people thought that (Zeta) was the end of the Greek alphabet, which it is not,” says Graham. “So, we don’t want to distract from those impacts.”

A third change for the 2021 season is an update to the model that forecasts storm surge, which is the leading cause of hurricane-related deaths. It will allow forecasters to give storm surge warnings 60 hours before the threat arrives instead of 48 hours.

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