Why the National Hurricane Center could move up the start date of hurricane season

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MYRTLE BEACH, S.C. (WBTW) — Hurricane season typically starts June 1, but that could change.

Each year, the National Hurricane Center makes changes to better monitor and forecast tropical cyclones. One of the changes this year was to start the Tropical Weather Outlook on May 15 instead of June 1.

News13 Chief Meteorologist Frank Johnson spoke with the Director of the National Hurricane Center, Ken Graham, about whether the change could be the first step to an earlier hurricane season.

Tropical storms that form before the start of hurricane season are not unusual. Last year, the National Hurricane Center issues 36 special Tropical Outlooks before June 1, covering tropical storms Arthur, Bertha, and Cristobal.

2020 was the sixth consecutive year with a named storm before June 1.

“You go back in history, and we have had six years in a row, but even if you go back 100 years in record keeping, you can find some storms that start before the season,” Graham said. “They are usually not the strongest storms, but they still can produce wind. They can still produce storm surge. They can still produce heavy rainfall, so we need to take them serious.”

In March, the World Meteorological Organization (WMO) discussed moving the start of the Atlantic Hurricane Season into May, to better cover the early-season storms that have become more common.

“I think some of the positives associated with having a season that’s earlier is you’ll be able to capture some of those storms that occur before June 1, right? If they fit within that mold of what we see as a season,” Graham said. “But some of the negatives can be you start to get further away from the peak of the season, where we see the most dangerous storms in August through October. So we are getting a longer season, and pretty soon you have such a long season, does that hurt our preparedness efforts?”

In the old U.S. Weather Bureau days, hurricane season ran from June 15 until Nov. 15. In 1965, hurricane season was expanded to the current June 1 through Nov. 30. It could be time to adjust the dates again.

“June 1 is very familiar, so we need to make sure we are not doing more harm than good,” Graham said.”

The outcome of the WMO meeting in March was to form a team of scientists, climatologists, and social scientists to study the pros and cons of an earlier start to hurricane season. This will likely be discussed again at next year’s meeting, but a decision is still several years away.

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