The U.S. could be in for another active hurricane season in the months ahead. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its 2021 Atlantic hurricane season outlook on Thursday, predicting a 60% chance of an above-normal number of named storms.
The NOAA outlook predicts a likelihood of 13 to 20 named storms with sustained winds of at least 39 mph. It says six to 10 of those are likely to become hurricanes, and three to five may become major hurricanes of .
Those numbers range higher than the newly adjusted "normal" figures of 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes in a typical season. NOAA raised its assessment of the "normal" number of storms due to the significant uptick in activity in recent decades, up from the previous level of 12 named storms, six hurricanes and three major hurricanes.
Forecasters at NOAA's Climate Prediction Center said several factors contributed to the higher outlook this year, including an enhanced West African monsoon, meaning more atmospheric disturbances emerging off the African coast; less wind shear; and warmer ocean temperatures providing more fuel for storms.
It comes on the heels of the most active Atlantic hurricane season ever seen., with so many storms that we ran out of letters in the alphabet to name them. Twelve of the storm systems made landfall in the U.S., including nine that hit the Gulf Coast — contributing to a record number of last year.
NOAA said experts do not expect such historic levels of storm activity this year, but stressed that now is the time for people who live in coastal areas to get prepared.
"Although NOAA scientists don't expect this season to be as busy as last year, it only takes one storm to devastate a community," said Ben Friedman, acting NOAA administrator.
The Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on June 1 and runs through November 30.