State of the Facts
In May, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) predicted an above-normal hurricane season, with upwards of 10 hurricanes for the year. Despite no named hurricanes making landfall by the beginning of August, NOAA recently reaffirmed its prediction.
Hurricane season in the Atlantic Ocean runs from June to the end of November, with the most activity occurring in mid-August through mid-October. NOAA issues its predictions for the season in May each year. Predictions include the number of hurricanes, major hurricanes, and named storms that will occur.
This year marks the third year in a row that NOAA predicted an above-normal hurricane season. A “normal” season is defined as seven hurricanes, with three of those hurricanes being Category 3 or higher. The last above-normal season was in 2020 with nine hurricanes.
The Pacific Ocean’s surface temperature affects wind patterns that lead to the development of Atlantic hurricanes. NOAA uses this data to predict Atlantic hurricane season trends. Warmer water will cause high winds to break up hurricanes before they make landfall. This is known as El Niño. Cooler temperatures allow hurricanes to fully develop as they head towards land, a phenomenon called La Niña. This year’s La Niña led NOAA to predict a high number of Atlantic hurricanes.
NOAA also predicts hurricanes by determining if favorable conditions are present in the Atlantic Ocean. These favorable conditions include warmer sea temperatures in parts of the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, and strong waves off the African coast.
Fourteen states and Washington, DC have been hit by the eye of a hurricane since 1851, the year data collection started. The eye is the very center of a hurricane that is usually about 20 to 40 miles across. The eye itself has relatively low wind speeds but is surrounded by the “eyewall”. The eyewall is where hurricane winds are at their highest levels, often causing the most damage.
Miami-Dade County in Florida and Plaquemines Parish, located south of New Orleans, in Louisiana have each been hit by a hurricane eye 16 times, the most of anywhere in the country.
Counties that have been hit by the eye of a hurricane between 1851 to 2021
Check out the USAFacts Climate Hub for monthly data on severe weather, precipitation, and temperature over time.
A named storm is a tropical cyclone with a maximum sustained surface wind speed of at least 39 miles per hour.
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