As if 2020 didn't present enough challenges, the year also went down as having the most active Atlantic hurricane season in 170 years.

While 2021 does not look as dire, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday that this year will once again most likely be above normal for named storms.

"Last year's busy season was a clear reflection of the ongoing high-activity era which began in 1995 and continues to be a factor in our outlook for 2021," Matthew Rosencrans, lead seasonal hurricane forecaster at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, said.

As far as what's "normal," Rosencrans said NOAA's definition of that itself is changing. Now, an average season will be defined as having 14 named storms, seven of which become hurricanes.

There's a 60% chance the Atlantic region will see more than that in 2021, a 30% chance of something close to average, and 10% below average.

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Rosencrans said any forecast for a specific region, such as New Jersey, or the tri-state area, cannot be accurately made until a storm is about a week away.

But this will not be NOAA's final word on the season.

"Based on our current data and analysis, we do not expect the 2021 hurricane season to be as active as 2020. However, we do update our Atlantic seasonal outlook in August," Rosencrans said.

Townsquare New Jersey Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow agrees with the NOAA forecasters that it only takes one big storm to make a very memorable season, pointing to the damage and power outages caused by Tropical Storms Fay and Isaias last summer.

"I wouldn't focus too much on the actual numbers here," Zarrow said. "But pay attention to the big headline: Large-scale atmospheric factors are pointing toward an active, above-normal hurricane season in the Atlantic."

Addressing the whispers that the recent run of above-normal seasons might dictate a shift in the Atlantic season calendar, Rosencrans said neither his agency nor the World Meteorological Organization are at that point yet.

"There are no plans to change the 2021 hurricane season but it's my understanding that there are discussions, both internal to NOAA and within the WMO, about changing that," he said.

FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell added that no matter what the predictions may say, being prepared is always the first step to staying safe.

That includes not only protecting yourself and your family, but your property and assets as well.

"There is no more important or valuable disaster recovery tool than having insurance," she said. "Talk with your insurance agent to fully understand your insurance policies and know what kinds of coverage that you have."

Patrick Lavery is New Jersey 101.5's afternoon news anchor. Follow him on Twitter @plavery1015 or email patrick.lavery@townsquaremedia.com.

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