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Encore: Get ready for another destructive Atlantic hurricane season


The start of hurricane season is about a week away, and federal forecasters are predicting we could see as many as 21 named storms this year. That's higher than average and part of a trend driven in part by climate change. Here's Rebecca Hersher from NPR's climate team.

REBECCA HERSHER, BYLINE: Between six and 10 of the storms are forecast to be full-blown hurricanes, which is a lot. Rick Spinrad is the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, NOAA.


RICK SPINRAD: NOAA is predicting an above-normal 2022 Atlantic hurricane season, which would make this year the seventh consecutive above-normal season.

HERSHER: That's bad news for the millions of people who live in the potential path of a storm, which includes a huge swath of the U.S. from the Northeast to the Southeast and the Gulf Coast. Matthew Rosencrans is NOAA's lead hurricane forecaster.

MATTHEW ROSENCRANS: So hurricanes are anywhere from 200 to 1,000 miles across in their impact. So you can be even a thousand miles from the coastline and have an impact.

HERSHER: Flooding is a big impact, he says. Climate change is making storms rainier. That was on deadly display just last year with Hurricane Ida. It made landfall in Louisiana with powerful wind and rain and killed dozens of people there. Then it moved northeast across nine states.


ERIC ADAMS: Just last year, the remnants of Hurricane Ida caused torrential rains and flash flooding that killed 13 New Yorkers in basement apartments.

HERSHER: That's New York City Mayor Eric Adams. And to underscore how widespread hurricane risk really is, NOAA announced its 2022 hurricane forecast in New York City, not exactly the place most Americans think of when they think of hurricanes. There have always been cycles of more and less active hurricane seasons. The last seven years or so have been an active cycle. But climate change is also a big part of it. Hotter air and hotter ocean water create perfect conditions for hurricanes. And Matthew Rosencrans says this year the water in the Gulf of Mexico could be extra hot because of something called the loop current. Imagine a river of hot water looping into the Gulf of Mexico, and then a blob detaches and just sits there, right in the path of any hurricane that's headed toward land.

ROSENCRANS: If a storm does form and move across that area, it's kind of like moving on to, like, an area where it can be kind of supercharged really quickly.

HERSHER: That could mean storms that get big and dangerous very quickly, too quickly for people to evacuate. Federal forecasters are clear - get ready for a tough hurricane season. It starts June 1 and runs through November.

Rebecca Hersher, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.