NJ about to enter peak of above-normal Atlantic hurricane season
Although it was only a tropical storm by the time its path reached New Jersey in early July, the system known as Elsa was the fifth named storm in the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season, and marked the earliest date on record for which the fifth storm became a hurricane.
Against that backdrop, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released a revised seasonal forecast on Wednesday, with NOAA's Climate Prediction Center Hurricane Season Outlook lead Matthew Rosencrans saying the most intense activity has yet to begin.
"August through October marks the peak months of the hurricane season, and while the tropics have been relatively slow over the past few weeks, NOAA forecasters do anticipate that a busy hurricane season remains ahead," Rosencrans said.
There is now a 65% chance, according to NOAA's forecast, that this season will be above-normal, up from 60% in the initial May outlook.
That includes 15 to 21 named storms, seven to 10 of which NOAA predicts will become hurricanes (Elsa already counted among that total), with three to five eventually classified as major.
Still, 2021 is still not expected to be as busy as 2020 was in the Atlantic. Wednesday marked the one-year anniversary of Tropical Storm Isaias making its way through New Jersey.
"Sea surface temperatures are closer to average across the Atlantic main development region, which contributes to our analysis that this season, while likely above average, is not likely to be as active as last year," Rosencrans said.
Townsquare New Jersey Chief Meteorologist Dan Zarrow concurred with NOAA's assessment of air and ocean temperatures, saying that climatologically, the average peak of the season is Sept. 10, "so there's still a long way to go."
"As of today, there are two disorganized tropical waves the hurricane center is tracking for possible development," Zarrow said, noting that the next named storm would be Fred.
Zarrow and Rosencrans were also in lockstep on one point about the number of forecasted storms: When evaluating the season as a whole, it doesn't really matter how many total storms form.
"Regardless of the predicted activity, it does only take one storm to have catastrophic impacts on lives and communities," Rosencrans said. "Everyone should know their hurricane risk, have a plan, and be prepared for the upcoming core of the season."
Rosencrans also had a message for residents of coastal states that are smaller in area and therefore closer overall to the Atlantic Ocean — like, for instance, New Jersey, which has traditionally seen statewide impacts from tropical systems, not just at the Jersey Shore.
"Residents in the regions prone to inland flooding should join their coastal neighbors in staying tuned to the National Hurricane Center for the latest watches and warnings all season long," he said.
NOAA has set Nov. 30 as the end date for the six-month Atlantic hurricane season.