Hurricane and Storm Season: What to Expect Shipping in 2021

When we think about factors that affect transit time, most shippers’ attention is drawn to things such as port congestion, traffic, and capacity availability. However, weather is just as important as anything else when it comes to forecasting transit times and routing options for future shipments.

Hurricanes, tsunamis, and other bad ocean weather conditions are a major obstacle for international transportation. While each year is different, there’s no doubt that weather will affect shipping in one way or another. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has released their forecast regarding the upcoming “storm season,” and the predictions have shippers a bit on edge.

Ocean Shipping: Hurricane Season 2021

As always when dealing with weather predictions, nothing is certain. However, the NOAA is predicting with reasonable certainty that 2021 will be a rather active hurricane season. They reported that in the Atlantic there is roughly a 60% chance that the 2021 hurricane season – which spans from June to November – will have above normal activity, a 30% chance that it will have average activity, and a 10% chance that it will have below average activity. In other words, it’s looking like the Atlantic may be a bit rough now through November.

More specifically, the NOAA is predicting that there will be a total of 13 to 20 named storms in 2021 (which require winds of 39mph or more.) Of those 13 to 20, a potential 6 to 10 could become hurricanes (which require winds of 74mph or more), and it is likely that 3 to 5 of those could become major hurricanes – ranking as category 3, 4, or 5 hurricanes.

Once again, while none of these predictions are certain, the NOAA is offering a 70% confidence on the storm forecast in the Atlantic.

The NOAA is continually working on improving their technology for predicting, measuring, and properly notifying all communities of potential storms. Officials recognize the financial, physical, health, and economic impacts that a single hurricane can have on a community, and are working to upgrade their computer models, observation techniques, and notification strategies.

Climate change is often one of the key factors contributing to an increase or decrease in storm activity in the Atlantic. Matthew Rosencrans stated, “Predicted warmer-than-average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, weaker tropical Atlantic trade winds, and an enhanced west African monsoon will likely be factors in this year’s overall activity.”

For shippers planning their 2021 shipments, make sure you are actively listening to NOAA forecasts and considering alternative shipping options if necessary. While chances are high that your ocean freight will be fine, hurricanes can cause major disasters at origin and destination points, as well as at ocean ports. Depending on the nature of the freight you’re shipping, it’s important to keep other potential shipping modes in mind should ocean storm activity reach detrimental levels.


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