In a statement on Tuesday, The National Hurricane Center (NHC) stated that they would begin issuing their routine daily Tropical Weather Outlooks for the Atlantic basin beginning on May 15 this year, several days prior to the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season on June 1st.
The change comes on the heels of discussion between many in the meteorological community on whether or not the hurricane season should be moved up to May due to recent pre-season storm activity over the last several years.
*It is important to note that although the NHC will be issuing outlooks/advisories earlier on, the official start date of hurricane season will remain on June 1st and last through November as usual.
While we have sporadically seen May tropical systems through the years, there has been a noticeable uptick in tropical activity for the month of May in the last 10 years.
In fact, it is now six years running that an Atlantic Tropical Cyclone has formed prior to the official start of the season.
And as recently as this past 2020 season, both tropical storm Arthur and Bertha developed during the month of May.
*Side note* It should be pointed out that advancement in technology, satellites and resources have made it easier to detect tropical cyclones even compared to just a decade ago; thus, more marginal storms are likely to be named not only in May, but throughout the season as a whole.
This is especially the case for those short-lived, hybrid-type systems.
Of course, every year is different and certain environmental and atmospheric conditions can cause a season to lean towards being more/less favorable for tropical activity (La Niña, El Niño, etc). There is certainly more than one factor.
So what does this all mean to me, you may be asking?
This isn't an attempt by the NHC to instill fear into all of us longer than we already have to endure during the typical six-month season.
It is simply a move to recognize the potential to see tropical cyclones developing prior to the June 1st start date, as has been the case the past six years.
Furthermore, the outlooks and graphics they put out may simply just say something like, "No new tropical cyclones are expected during the next 5 days" and boom that's it, especially if there isn't anything to report on.
In fact, this type of verbiage is something we can get from the NHC during the actual season itself if activity in the basin is quiet (which certainly happens from time to time).
Additionally, May storms are typically much weaker compared to those that develop say in August or September, usually only achieving tropical storm status at max.
Going back to the 1800s, we have had <10 hurricanes that formed in the Atlantic basin during the month of May.
Finally, while the decision to extend the hurricane season is still up in the air, the folks at the hurricane season are taking the necessary steps to account for and stay ahead of those pre-season storms.