MIAMI — Bellwether early forecasts show Florida is likely in for another active hurricane season, but probably not as dramatic as last year.
The 2020 hurricane season, in keeping with the nightmare year of coronavirus, saw an all-time record number of named storms: 30.
In 2021, a forecast from Colorado State University suggests 17 named storms could form, with eight becoming hurricanes and four becoming major hurricanes, meaning category 3 or higher. CSU Meteorologist Phil Klotzbach called it another "well above average" season.
The definition of an average hurricane season is set to change this year since NOAA recalculates its 30-year average every decade. The agency has yet to release its new standard, but research from University of Miami's Brian McNoldy suggests that the 1991-2020 average is 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes, an uptick from the previous average of 12 named storms, 6 hurricanes and 2 major hurricanes.
The CSU forecast is based on the 1981 to 2010 average but will update accordingly when NOAA sets its new standard.
Accuweather, a for-profit weather service, released similar predictions to CSU earlier this week. The service calls for 16 to 20 named storms this season and 7 to 10 hurricanes (of which three to five are major).
Hurricane season starts June 1 and lasts until Nov. 30, with a peak in August and September.
These early-season predictions are the scientific community's first stab at forecasting what the hurricane season could hold, and they generally get more accurate as they get updated later down the line. NOAA's first official prediction isn't due until later in May.
"There's a lot of uncertainty with this early lead time," Klotzbach said. "You have several months where a lot of things can change in the climate system."
One of the hardest things to predict this early is which of a pair of weather patterns will appear, or if neither will.