National Hurricane Center to consider starting Atlantic hurricane season earlier

Tropical Storm Arthur on May 17, 2020. [NOAA image]

The National Hurricane Center is examining the possibility of moving the beginning of the Atlantic hurricane season to earlier on the calendar in the future, as more named tropical cyclones have been forming ahead of the current June 1 start date.

“Named storms have formed prior to the official start of the hurricane season in about half of the past 10-15 years, including each of the past six years,” said Dennis Feltgen, communications and public affairs officer and meteorologist with the National Hurricane Center in Miami.

The most recent was Tropical Storm Arthur which formed off Florida on May 16, 2020, and eventually moved over eastern North Carolina.

At one point, Arthur produced sustained winds of 39 mph and a peak gust of 46 mph recorded on the Lindsay C. Warren Bridge over the Alligator River between Dare and Tyrrell counties. The worst of the storm stayed just offshore.

That was the start of the busiest Atlantic hurricane season on record, with 30 named storms and 12 landfalling storms in the continental United States.

“Many of the May systems are short-lived, hybrid (subtropical) systems that are now being identified because of better monitoring and policy changes that now name subtropical storms,” Feltgen said.

The World Meteorological Organization’s Region IV Hurricane Committee has proposed a request for the NHC to shift the start date of the Atlantic basin season to May 15 in 2021.

Feltgen said the center will not change when the Atlantic-basin season begins this year, but they will move up the start date of their regular tropical weather forecasts for the Atlantic Ocean, Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean Sea and adjacent waters.

“In 2020, NHC issued 36 ‘special’ Tropical Weather Outlooks prior to June 1,” Feltgen said. “In order to provide more consistent information on the potential for late May and early June systems, NHC will now begin the routine issuance of the Atlantic TWOs on May 15, which is when routine Tropical Weather Outlooks also begin for the eastern Pacific basin.”

Feltgen said a recommendation was made at the National Oceanographic and Atmospheric Administration Hurricane Conference last December to assemble a team composed of members from the National Hurricane Center, National Weather Service headquarters and the regional offices this spring.

“Considerations for the team would include a determination of a quantitative threshold for adding or removing dates from the official Atlantic hurricane season,” Feltgen said. “Then, an examination would need to take place regarding the need for, and potential ramifications of, potentially moving the beginning of the hurricane season to May 15.”

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