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Is this year’s hurricane season outpacing 2020?

In some ways it is
Published: Sep. 7, 2021 at 11:14 AM CDT
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MONTGOMERY, Ala. (WSFA) - Has it seemed like a busy year in the tropics? If your answer is yes then you’re on to something. We’ve had 12 named storms as of September 6th, putting us well ahead of what’s considered normal.

Only five hurricane seasons on record have had at least 12 named storms by the beginning of September. 2021 has officially become the 6th.

There have been 12 named storms as of September 7th.
There have been 12 named storms as of September 7th.(WSFA 12 News)

Of those 12 named storms five have become hurricanes. Three of those reached major hurricane status by becoming at least a category 3 with maximum sustained winds of at least 111 mph.

Three may not seem like a large number, but it is an impressive number in this instance. That’s because only three years since 1966 have had at least three major hurricanes by September 3rd. That’s the day Larry officially reached category 3 status in the Atlantic Ocean.

2021 is off to a very fast start in terms of tropical activity.
2021 is off to a very fast start in terms of tropical activity.(WSFA 12 News)

Let’s compare this season to 2020′s record-breaking year to get an idea of where we stand. That’s what everyone wants to know, right? Through September 6th, 2021 has been nearly as active.

We are running three storms behind when it comes to overall named storms, but we tied 2020 when looking at hurricanes and are ahead of last year when looking at major hurricanes.

Another way to look at how active this hurricane season has been is to look at something called Accumulated Cyclone Energy (ACE). As the tweet above from Dr. Philip Klotzbach says, ACE is an integrated metric that takes into account the duration and intensity of storms.

In other words it’s a way to measure how busy a particular hurricane season is based on the strength of tropical systems and how long they last. It does not integrate the actual number of named storms.

Through September 6th, this year has already generated more ACE than 17 entire hurricane seasons. If you knew nothing else about the season we’ve had, that statistic in itself would qualify as impressive.

The peak of hurricane season in the Atlantic is September 10th.
The peak of hurricane season in the Atlantic is September 10th.(WSFA 12 News)

Unfortunately we’re not done quite yet. The climatological peak for hurricane season is September 10th. Once we get past that date we start to see activity head down. On average, of course.

September and at least the first three weeks of October are notoriously busy in the Atlantic Basin. Just look back at last year at Hurricane Zeta if you need proof. That storm, which caused plenty of issues in Alabama, made landfall just prior to Halloween.

So even once we pass the peak on September 10th, don’t let your guard down. We are most definitely nowhere near done with 2021′s hurricane season. It’s just impossible to say where exactly storms will form and go. Stay tuned!

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