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People survey damage in a neighborhood after Hurricane Delta made landfall in Holly Beach, Louisiana, U.S., on Oct. 11, 2020. Photo: Luke Sharrett/Bloomberg via Getty Images

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is out with their official Atlantic hurricane season outlook, and it calls for above average storm activity, which would make this the sixth unusually active season in a row.

Why it matters: This hurricane season comes in the wake of the North Atlantic Basin's most active season on record, with 30 named storms occurring in 2020, 12 of which struck the U.S., setting a benchmark.

  • By the numbers: NOAA is forecasting a 60% chance of an above average season, with a 70% probability of between 13 and 20 named storms. Of these named storms, NOAA is predicting that between 6 to 10 will be hurricanes, and 3 to 5 major hurricanes of Category 3, 4, or 5.

Flashback: Of the 30 named storms last year, 13 were hurricanes, and seven were "major" hurricanes of at least Category 3 intensity. The U.S. saw about $44 billion in economic losses from tropical cyclones in 2020, less than in 2005 and 2017, according to Steve Bowen, the head of disaster insight at Aon.

  • The hardest hit region last year was the Gulf Coast, particularly central and western Louisiana, where two hurricanes struck land within 25 miles of each other at different points in the season.

The big picture: A few main factors are behind the 2021 seasonal forecast, all of which point to an uptick in activity, though not as severe as last year. First, there had been, until recently, a La Niña event in the tropical Pacific Ocean, which tends to diminish the upper atmospheric winds over the tropical Atlantic.

  • This climate phenomena can reduce wind shear over the tropical Atlantic, which is when winds blow with different speeds or direction with height. Shear can rip apart nascent tropical storms and hurricanes.
  • The atmospheric effects of La Niña are likely to linger into much of the first half of the hurricane season, and if another such event redevelops by the fall, the season could be even more active than currently anticipated.
  • In addition, ocean temperatures in key parts of the tropical Atlantic are running above average for this time of year, though not as mild as they were at this time last year.

Climate change's influence on tropical cyclones, which is the general term for tropical storms, hurricanes, and typhoons, is increasingly detectable, according to scientific studies. Nearly a dozen of the storms in the Atlantic Ocean last year underwent a process known as rapid intensification, leaping across several intensity categories in a matter of hours.

  • In a warming world, more frequent bouts of rapid intensification is expected.
  • In addition, hurricanes are now moving more slowly, and may be weakening more slowly once they cross over land. They're also dropping more rainfall than they used to, thanks to the added moisture from warmer ocean and air temperatures.
  • Other forecasting groups that issue seasonal outlooks have unanimously called for an above average season, though not as busy as 2020 was. These include Colorado State University and AccuWeather.

Of note: A forecasting group at Penn State University, which came the closest to predicting the actual number of storms in 2020, is calling for a range between 9 and 15 named storms this season, with a best estimate of 12 named storms.

What's next: Already, the season's first named storm, which is likely to be a hybrid between a tropical and non-tropical cyclone, is expected to form east of Bermuda in the next few days, but won't significantly affect any land areas.

Go deeper

Updated 24 mins ago - Science

NTSB probes crash that killed 10 in Alabama as storms lash Southeast

A car drives in the rain in Galveston, Texas. Photo: Zeng Jingning/China News Service via Getty Images

The National Transportation Safety Board announced Sunday that it's investigating a fiery multi-vehicle weekend crash in Alabama that killed 10 people, including nine children, as storms swept the Southeast.

The big picture: Saturday's crash on Interstate 65, south of Montgomery, occurred amid a tropical depression that left 13 people dead in Alabama as it triggered flash floods and spawned tornadoes that razed "dozens of homes," per AP.

Laurel Hubbard to become 1st openly trans athlete to compete at Olympics

New Zealand's Laurel Hubbard at the Gold Coast 2018 Commonwealth Games in Australia, when she became the first openly transgender athlete to represent NZ. Photo: Scott Barbour/Getty Images

The New Zealand Olympic Committee has announced that Laurel Hubbard has been selected for the women's weightlifting team for the Tokyo Games — making her the first openly transgender athlete to compete at the event.

The big picture: Hubbard, 43, is part of a five-member Kiwi weightlifting team and will compete in the women's super heavyweight category. Meanwhile, BMX rider Chelsea Wolfe will become the first openly trans athlete to travel to the Olympics with Team USA, when she arrives in Tokyo as a reserve rider.

American Airlines cuts hundreds of flights amid demand surge

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

American Airlines announced Sunday that it's cutting some 950 flights from its schedule, including 296 this weekend, to reduce potential pressure on its operations, the Wall Street Journal first reported.

Driving the news: The U.S. vaccine rollout has led to a massive increase in travel bookings. The airline noted in an emailed statement that it's facing an "incredibly quick ramp up of customer demand."

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