Next year’s Atlantic hurricane season could begin on May 15th if officials decide this year to move its formal start date up by two weeks. The decision will likely be made this spring, during meetings held by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and World Meteorological Organization (WMO).
2022 is the earliest that the start date can be officially changed, a spokesperson for NOAA’s National Hurricane Center told The Verge in an email. But come May 15th of this year, the agency will start issuing its Tropical Weather Outlooks, which are routine forecasts that it typically doesn’t start releasing until hurricane season starts on June 1st.
The proposed changes come as climate change makes hurricane season more unpredictable and more advanced technology makes it easier to spot tropical storms early in the season. Changing the start date could better reflect these new realities.
Changing the start date could better reflect these realities
The official hurricane season, which runs from June through November, includes 97 percent of tropical activity, according to the National Hurricane Center. Wind shear, a change in wind speed or direction that can tear storms apart, is typically robust in May and then begins to weaken throughout June and July — allowing stronger storms to form.
The designated season has been around in a few forms for decades. When the first hurricane warning system in the US was established in 1935, it scheduled a special telegraph line to connect its weather stations between June 15th and November 15th. Those official dates were changed to June 1st and November 30th in 1965.
Since then, high-resolution satellite imagery has made it easier for forecasters to see storms that they might not have identified 30 or 40 years ago, Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist in the department of atmospheric science at Colorado State University, told The Verge last year.
Tropical storms arrived ahead of schedule last year, kicking off the most active Atlantic hurricane season on record. As a result, the National Hurricane Center issued 36 “special” Tropical Weather Outlooks before June 1st, 2020. The first named storm of the season, Arthur, developed on May 16th. That made 2020 the sixth year in a row to have a storm named before the official start of the season.
With the season less than 100 days away, the National Hurricane Center is already issuing reminders to the public to get prepared.