Onshore/Offshore Facilities

Another Busy Hurricane Season Ahead for the US

Forecasters are predicting the sixth ‘above-average’ Atlantic storm season in a row.


Forecasters at Colorado State University (CSU) are indicating another stormy Atlantic hurricane season for 2021 with an estimated 17 named storms, or cyclones that boast winds of at least 39 mph. Of those named storms, CSU scientists believe 8 will become hurricanes (winds of at least 74 mph), and half of those will spin up into major hurricanes with winds of at least 111 mph.

The average number of named storms between 1981–2010, a key CSU forecast parameter, was just over 12, with just over 6 becoming hurricanes and just under 3 strengthening into major hurricanes.

“We anticipate that the 2021 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have above-normal activity,” the 8 April 8 forecast read. “Current weak La Niña conditions may transition to neutral ENSO (El Niño–Southern Oscillation) by this summer/fall, but the odds of a significant El Niño seem unlikely. Sea surface temperatures averaged across the tropical Atlantic are currently near average, while subtropical Atlantic Sea surface temperatures are warmer than normal. We anticipate an above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean.”

Landfall probabilities for a storm striking the US coast is 69%, well above the average for the past century of 52%. The US East Coast, including Florida, has a 45% chance of a storm making landfall in 2021, up 14% over the past 100-year average. The US Gulf Coast from the Florida Panhandle westward to Brownsville, Texas, has a 44% chance of a storm strike this season. The average for the past century is 30%.

CSU forecasters place the probability of at least one major hurricane tracking into the Caribbean Sea in 2021 at 58%, well over the historic average of 42%.

Oil and gas producers in the US Gulf had their storm preparedness and evacuation plans put to the test by the steady stream of storms last year. The 2020 Atlantic hurricane season was one for the record books with 30 named storms, 13 hurricanes, and 6 major hurricanes. A third of those named storms either formed or made their way into the US Gulf.

Atlantic storm hindcast historic.jpg
Observed vs. early April cross-validated hindcast values of accumulated cyclone energy for the statistical model for 1982–2020. Source: Colorado State University.

The 2020 season also expanded the normal range of the storm period (1 June to 30 November) with two storms occurring in May. The 2020 season also saw the latest-recorded Category 5 storm (winds at least 157 mph). Hurricane Iota reached that marker on 16 November.

CSU forecasters will update their 2021 hurricane season prediction on 3 June.