Forecasters are considering an earlier start to hurricane season -- here’s why

Weather officials weighing pros, cons of May 15 start to storm season

ORLANDO, Fla. – Next month, the World Meteorological Organization will be holding its annual hurricane committee meeting, during which weather officials will review and retire storm names from the 2020 hurricane season, as well as look into the possibility of moving up the hurricane season start date to May 15.

Why change the start date to May 15?

The reason for this possible change in the season’s start date is to clear up confusion for the public. According to the agenda, “most National Weather Service messaging says for the public to get ready by the start of hurricane season (June 1st), but the current season timing is not the most beneficial to preparedness efforts since these early storms can be hazardous”.

One remedy to this confusion issue, also being brought up during this committee hearing, is to begin routine issuance of Atlantic Tropical Weather outlooks on May 15.

“In 2020, NHC issued 36 ‘special’ Tropical Weather Outlooks prior to June 1st. In order to provide more consistent information on the potential for late May and early June systems, NHC will now begin the routine issuance of the Atlantic TWOs on May 15, which is when routine Tropical Weather Outlooks also begin for the eastern Pacific basin. An effort is underway to examine the potential advantages and disadvantages of changing the official start date of the Atlantic hurricane season,” said Communications and Public Affairs Officer Dennis Feltgen.

So, what does this mean for us?

Before this change, if an area had the potential for developing outside of hurricane season, which begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30, the National Hurricane Center would issue sporadic tropical outlooks. Below is a sample of a tropical weather outlook.

Example of the NHC Tropical Outlook Courtesy: National Hurricane Center

But starting in 2021, regardless of what is brewing in the tropics, the NHC will begin issuing their tropical weather outlooks 15 days before the official start of the hurricane season. These scheduled updates will be sent out four times a day at 2 a.m., 8 a.m., 2 p.m. and 8 p.m.

Is the Atlantic hurricane season becoming more active outside of official hurricane season dates?

If looking at the stats, in recent years, we’ve seen more activity outside of the official hurricane season dates.

“Named storms have formed prior to the official start of the hurricane season in about half of the past 10-15 years, including each of the past six years,” forecasters said.

That is especially true during the month of May. In the Atlantic, waters begin to warm enough to generate some activity leading up to the start of the season. In the past 10 years, we have seen eight tropical/subtropical systems develop.

May tropical storms 2010-2020:

  • Tropical Storm Alberto: May 2012
  • Tropical Storm Beryl: May 2012
  • Tropical Storm Ana: May 2015
  • Tropical Storm Bonnie: May 2016
  • Tropical Storm Alberto: May 2018
  • Subtropical Storm Andrea: May 2019
  • Tropical Storm Arthur: May 2020
  • Tropical Storm Bertha: May 2020

“Many of the May systems are short-lived, hybrid (subtropical) systems that are now being identified because of better monitoring and policy changes that now name subtropical storms,” Feltgen explained.

At least 20 direct deaths have occurred from these late May storms since 2012 with about $200 million in total damage.

Regardless of when the tropical outlooks are sent out, or IF hurricane season is eventually extended, remember that tropical systems can form anytime of the year. It is best to always be informed and prepared year round for whatever might come our way.

Click here for your hurricane preparedness checklist.

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