First look at the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane season

Good morning. The most reputable hurricane season forecasting service, led by Phil Klotzbach at Colorado State University, has released its first outlook for the 2021 Atlantic season. The forecast calls for above normal activity (see table below) with 17 named storms instead of the more typical 12; eight hurricanes instead of six; and about 50 percent total more activity, in terms of the duration and intensity of tropical systems, as measured by accumulated cyclone energy.

This outlook is consistent with other predictions, already released, in calling for a busier than normal season. What I like about Klotzbach’s forecast is that he’s very clear about his methodology—using a combination of statistical modeling, and historical correlations between Spring-time weather conditions and hurricane activity later in the year. Klotzbach also has a reasonable track record.

(Colorado State University)

With that said, seasonal hurricane forecasts are far from perfect. I think, generally, we can expect a busier Atlantic season, but we’re almost certainly not going to see a brute of a year like 2020. Moreover, the chance of the Houston area being directly affected by serious tropical weather (in terms of floods, winds, or surge) is pretty low. Historically, the region only sees a significant storm about once a decade or so. Therefore, while it certainly is time to begin planning for the 2021 Atlantic season, I very much do not want you to start worrying or obsessing about it. Matt and I will, of course, be here every step of the way, and we’ll be releasing a new app before the June 1 beginning of the season to keep you informed.


A lovely weekend awaits Houston, but first we’ve got to navigate the possibility of some storms later today and tonight, much like we saw a rogue thunderstorm develop near College Station on Thursday night. Highs today will reach the mid-80s, with generally cloudy skies. Winds will be noticeable out of the south, gusting to about 20 mph. An approaching front will drive the potential for showers and thunderstorms this evening and tonight, and their extent will depend on whether a capping inversion breaks.

Most likely, areas south of Interstate 10 probably won’t see much, if any rainfall. And, for the most part, accumulations in the Houston region north of I-10 will be perhaps a tenth of an inch. The best chances for severe weather lie far to the north of Houston, in the Lufkin and Longview areas. But as Thursday night’s storm showed, there is plenty of energy and instability in the atmosphere to generate thunderstorms and hail. So we’ll need to be wary tonight, and if the forecast changes significantly we’ll update accordingly.

NOAA storm outlook for Friday. (Weather Bell)


The front itself should push into Houston around sunrise on Saturday, with drier air following in its wake. As a result we should see clearing skies and highs around 80 degrees. Winds will be a bit gusty, out of the north at about 20 mph. Overnight lows should drop into the 50s for inland areas, with 60s along the coast.


Another pleasant, sunny day, with highs in the low- to mid-80s and dry air. As winds shift to come from the southeast later in the day, this will allow for low temperatures to be about 5 degrees warmer than Saturday night.

Drought outlook for Texas. (U.S. Drought Monitor)

Next week

I’m hesitant to say too much about the forecast for next week, as it now looks as though we’ll see a succession of weak fronts and disturbances that may, or may not push into Houston. In the end, I’d guess that next week ends up looking a lot like this week. The problem as we get deeper into spring is that we could really use some rainfall. All I can offer you is this: the global models are hinting at better rain chances (and accumulations) around the period of April 16 or 17. An inch or two of rainfall would go a long way given that parts of the region are already in a moderate to severe drought, and the hottest part of the year is yet to come. But I have no idea whether those model forecasts will verify.

We’ll have all the details on that come Monday. Until then, enjoy your lovely weather this weekend, Houston!

12 thoughts on “First look at the 2021 Atlantic Hurricane season”

  1. Every year we dodge a major hurricane, I feel we get closer to a major strike. Hard to say whether it’ll be this year or two or three. But it’ll happen. And I fear with the population growth it’ll change SE Texas in unimaginable ways. I’m sure the people in SW Louisiana thought their chances were low too. And then they got hit by two monsters last year.

    • I agree. We were very, very lucky last year – how many close calls did we have? Too many and too close for comfort, I’d say.

    • Dennis Walker, While you may be correct (and I sincerely hope not), and I agree SE Tx. would most assuredly be changed, this SCW reader is just made anxious by amateur speculations that this may be the year H takes a direct hit. I’ll just continue to tune into the pros. Thank you Matt and Eric!!

  2. I looked at the link and in terms of number of hurricanes and hurricane days, the forecast looks an awful lot like last year’s actuals. It looks like you and Matt will be busy this summer. I don’t know if I agree that Houston is overdue. I guess it kind of depends on how you count Harvey. Although it was a major hurricane, it was not a direct hit on Houston but it did have a major impact here nevertheless. Still definitely worth keeping an eye on this year. I will be very interested to see their June update.

  3. Since 1900, only one hurricane’s eye, a category 3 or stronger has hit the Houston’s city limits and that was Hurricane Alicia in 1983. Houston must be located at a sweet spot where hurricanes either steer east of Houston or south of Houston. In fact, since 1900, if memory serves correct and according to Wikipedia, only one eye of a Hurricane entered Houston’s city limits. Of course, as the Houston city limits expands, so do the chances of a hurricane’s eye hitting inside itsncity limits.

    • I probably would’nt call it a sweet spot. We’ve been impacted by many hurricanes and storms either on the periphery or right on top of us in the past. It’s just been 38 years since a major hurricane impacted us. Ike was still a 2. Harvey gave us floods but still landfalled down the coast. I’m surprised they didn’t include the Galveston hurricane of 1900 as the eye going right through the city along with Alicia. We can only dodge so many bullets and we are extremely overdue.

      • Didn’t they re-categorize Ike to a Cat 3 since it had the 24 foot storm surge ? Anyway, Ike was monster.

        • I believe they did recategorize it, and then they updated the categories for all future tropical depressions and hurricanes.

  4. Thanks for pointing out that major events hit Houston only every 10 years or so.

  5. I’ll be so glad when they can actually predict where a hurricane will hit when they release the spring forecasts well before it happens instead of relying on percentages and odds.

    What I mean is, say with this projection, they could tell us of those 17, 6 would hit Florida, 5 would hit Louisiana and 6 would hit Texas. And, of course, which of them would hit Puerto Rico or Cuba or where in the Caribbean or Mexico. As well as the strengths. I know I’m asking too much, but I really feel that some day they will have that ability.

    Unless, of course, some rich guy that thinks he’s God and freezes the planet first. Had to put that in because some rich guy is currently talking about it.

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