For the 7th year in a row the Atlantic hurricane season got an early start, before the ‘official start date’ of 1 June, when tropical cyclone ANA became the first named-storm of 2021 some 250 kilometers northeast of Bermuda.
While ANA, generating 75 kph maximum sustained winds, is forecast to track northeast over open Atlantic waters and dissipate over the next day or so as it encounters cooler ocean waters, it is a reminder that a period of active cyclogenesis is starting and we all around the north Atlantic basin need to get ready and be prepared.
The sequences of seven straight years with early starts before the 1 June date may well be a byproduct of global warming, one more of several early starts in the natural environment attributed to climate change, and well documented by scientists around the world.
What will the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season bring? NOAA and various academic and research centers that issue ‘predictions’ are anticipating a ‘busy’ season, but probably not as busy as the record-breaking 2020 season. The call is for somewhere between 17 and 20 named-storms with around 4 to 7 becoming major hurricanes with sustained winds of 178 kph or more. Interesting as these predictive number games may be, they cannot pinpoint when these storms may form or where they might make landfall. Consequently, those residing in coastal states from the Gulf of Mexico, and Florida, to the Atlantic USA, or in countries and island nations in and around the Caribbean, will do well in taking precautions and being prepared based on what we do know with a high degree of certainty and lessons learned from past impacts.
For example, we know there is an annual season lasting approximately six months, from 1 June through 30 November, when tropical cyclone activity takes place in the Atlantic basin. We also know what countries and regions are vulnerable to Atlantic hurricane impacts based on a historical record spanning close to 170 years. In recent years we have learned global warming is contributing to wetter (rainier) and rapidly intensifying hurricanes. Most importantly, we know that any one hit by a hurricane may be enough to cause plenty of structural and environmental damage, as well as death, injury, and human suffering.
In the end, what is critically important is to use our knowledge to get ready, be prepared, remain alert, and above all mitigate by adopting measures to reduce the potential for damage to life and property from expected impacts during recurring annual Atlantic hurricane seasons.