By Shermain Bique-Charles
It is safe to say that when it comes to hurricane predictions, residents of Antigua and Barbuda; well, most of them, have learned to take them with a grain of salt.
And despite latest developments in meteorological science, there is still a lot of uncertainty involved in predicting hurricanes.
This year is no exception, as climatologist Dale Destin issued his early predictions for 2021, saying that the season will most likely have a repeat of the record breaking 2020 Atlantic hurricane season.
Destin’s early forecast calls for a probable above normal activity, predicting the most likely number of named storms to be 21; however, he said there is a 70 percent or high confidence of the number ranging between 17 to 30.
If his predictions hold true, Destin’s forecast also calls for an accumulated cyclone energy index of 184with a high confidence of the range being 109 to 275. The ACE for the 2020 Season was 185; just one more than is forecast for this year.
Also predicted are ninehurricanes with a 70 percent confidence of the total being 6 to 14 and 5 major hurricanes with high likelihood of a range of 2 to 7.
While they can sound alarming, the fact is that not all storms that reach a name status will impact everyone in the Caribbean.
Furthermore, with the way hurricane forecast accuracy works, Destin was equipped to answer “how accurate are hurricane predictions.”
“The basis for my prediction would be conditions with respect to surface temperatures across the tropical Atlantic Ocean and the tropical Pacific Ocean. Across these two ocean basins lie the main predictors of the hurricane season,” Destin told Observer yesterday.
This year, there is also a warmer than usual tropical north Atlantic, meaning that there is more energy available for the formulation of cyclones.
Another is a cold-neutral El Niño Southern Oscillation during August to October – the peak of the hurricane season.
Understanding how storm prediction accuracy can be faulty, Destin says that it pays to be prepared.
“Forecasts are not the gospel, it is an awareness and preparation guide. You can prepare properly. You may want to disregard the forecast and pay attention to the fact that it takes only one hurricane to ruin your year or ruin your life,” Destin said.
The 2020 hurricane season will be most remembered for the record 30 named storms with major hurricanes Laura, Delta, Eta and Iota, according to Destin.
Collectively, they accounted for over 300 of the over 400 deaths from tropical cyclones and caused over US$32 billion of the US$51 billion in damage. The season produced 13 hurricanes and 6 became major.
The World Meteorological Organisation this year will not revert to Greek; rather, it will go to an alternate set of names that begins with Adria.
The first named storm of the Atlantic hurricane season will be Ana, followed by Bill, Claudette, Danny, Elsa, Fred and Grace.
The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to November 30, though storms sometimes form outside those dates.