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UPDATE: NOAA won't move the start of hurricane season to mid-May

Increasing pre-season storms triggered leaders to consider expanding the official season to begin May 15. But, another change is coming instead.
Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

UPDATE (March 2, 2021): The National Weather Service has announced it isn't changing the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season this year – but the agency is doing something new this time around. After six straight years of Atlantic tropical cyclones forming before the start of the season on June 1, the NWS will now issue routine Tropical Weather Outlooks (TWOs) beginning May 15. Click here to learn more.

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The Atlantic hurricane season typically begins on June 1, but it may now start even earlier because we simply see more pre-season storms than in years past.

The National Hurricane Center has announced plans to begin issuing routine tropical weather outlooks starting May 15, and the World Meteorological Organization is set to vote next month on these potential changes. 

Last year, the 2020 Atlantic hurricane season began with Tropical Storm Arthur east of Florida on May 16. The storm dumped 10 inches of rain on Marathon, FL, and ended up brushing the North Carolina Outer Banks. Arthur marked the record sixth consecutive year in the Atlantic basin with a tropical cyclone forming before June. 

Since 2000, 11 storms have been named before the official start of hurricane season.

The World Meteorological Organization announced the National Hurricane Center “will determine a quantitative threshold for adding or removing dates from the official Atlantic Hurricane Season,” and “will then examine the need for … potentially moving the beginning of hurricane season to May 15.”

According to the Washington Post, there is research to support that warming Atlantic waters in response to the changing climate could become supportive of tropical storms and hurricanes earlier in the season than in years past, making the issue more topical.

The trend shows that the average date of a season’s first named storm has shifted upward by about a month since 1970. 

Aside from global warming, better technology and satellites used today means meteorologists are able to track and name storms that otherwise may have been missed. So shifting this date up is likely a product of both better information and warming oceans.

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