More hurricanes, stronger wind velocity may be ‘new normal,’ Carteret County Shore Protection says

With the 2021 hurricane season underway, Carteret County Shore Protection Office Manager Greg Rudolph said predictions of an above average number of tropical storms might be the “new normal.” (NOAA image)

EMERALD ISLE — Greg Rudolph, who as Carteret County Shore Protection office manager monitors hurricanes’ impacts on area beaches, said last week predictions of an above average number of tropical storms this hurricane season appear to him to be the “new normal.”

Hurricane season begins each June and runs through November, although for the seventh straight year, a tropical storm, Ana, formed before the officials start.

According to N.C. State University meteorologists, the 2021 Atlantic hurricane season will be above average, with 15 to 18 named storms. Average is considered 11 named storms, calculated using the years 1951 to 2020.

Of this year’s predicted named storms, seven to nine could grow to hurricane strength – above the historical average of six – with two or three becoming major hurricanes, or storms that reach category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson scale.

But Mr. Rudolph said this above average may just be normal now, based on procedures used by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

NOAA uses a rolling, three-decade window to determine the climate normal, he said in his annual hurricane prediction analysis in his office’s Shorelines newsletter.

“With the onset of the year 2021, our new average is calculated from 1991-2020 rather than from 1981-2010, and one could argue the last three decades better encapsulate the uptick of tropical cyclone activity that most experts agree started in the 1990s and continues today.”

In addition, Mr. Rudolph told the News-Times, the average total wind velocity for each six-hour period of all tropical storms’ existence – known as the Accumulated Cyclone Energy Index, or ACE Index – for 1991 to 2020 is 121 knots, or 139 mph, up from 104 knots, or 119 mph, in the previous three-decade period.

“The ACE Index is actually one of the more revealing parameters we can use and serves as a better indicator of whether or not a hurricane season is truly “active” or not,” Mr. Rudolph wrote in Shorelines. “That’s a pretty big jump.”

All of this has implications on erosion and beach nourishment, the primary focus of Mr. Rudolph’s office.

The county just finished three years of nourishment, costing more than $85 million, from one end of Bogue Banks to the other. More than 5 million cubic yards of sand were added.

With the “new normal” in numbers and strength of hurricanes per season, however, Mr. Rudolph said there’s no reason to relax or cease monitoring erosion rates, which under the county’s beach management plan trigger new restoration projects.

That new normal “might subconsciously be the reason we’ve started looking for new sand sources,” other than the borrow site in the ocean off Atlantic Beach, he said.

“Our beaches are in good shape now for a moderate hurricane, depending upon the angle of approach and other factors,” he said.

With the ACE index higher from 1991 to 2020,however, it appears likely there will continue to be more strong hurricanes likely to cause the most beach erosion and move the sand farther offshore, where it’s not likely to return to the strand under normal conditions, he said. The likely continuation of the trend toward stronger storms would also threaten more properties, and potentially lives, through erosion and flooding.

Smaller hurricanes generally move sand side to side along Bogue Banks, Mr. Rudolph said, and there is a better chance it stays or returns to the beaches. He particularly mentioned Hurricane Dorian, which in 2019 was at one time a category 5 storm with 185 mph winds in the Bahamas, but made landfall as a category 2 storm at Cape Hatteras that September. According to county beach engineering surveys, it ended up adding sand to Bogue Banks beaches.

As for this year’s predictions on the number of hurricanes and tropical storms, Mr. Rudolph said he analyzed predictions from a number of organizations, chiefly the Tropical Meteorology Project at Colorado State University, the University College of London for Tropical Storm Risk and NOAA.

“There is excellent agreement that we could expect 17 named cyclones, eight of which will generate into hurricanes, with four of these becoming a major hurricane, all above historical values for each category,” Mr. Rudolph wrote in Shorelines, and that’s generally in line with the recently released prediction from NCSU.

But, he added, “It’s important to keep in mind this above-average type of forecast is really predicated upon not what factors are in place now but will be once we hit peak season in September.”


Staff writer Mike Shutak contributed to this report.


Contact Brad Rich at 252-864-1532; email; or follow on Twitter @brichccnt.

(12) comments


Looks like we got us a new weather man....hahaha

David Collins

There goes that “ MAY “ word again . Using fear of the unknown to promote his job and impotence .

Hurricanes are and have always been a fact of life here on the coast . Anyone that lives here should well know this by now . Occasionally we get a strong one or not as well . But , still the folks keep coming into harms way . People ! They appear to love fearing something , even if it is self induced .


It's called "Getting in front of the story", and he has this nailed. And there is more news to break. .. Schools will open. Taxes of all kind will be raised. But a new source for sand? Boring


DeadBolt 'prediction '........ There will be DECREASED activity this year, with little to no damage at all! (now, when one of us is wrong, it will only be 50% ). Great odds there! ps..... i'll use a dartboard for the next one guys.....[beam]

David Collins

These predictions remind me of the great global cooling scare of the 1960s as amply reported in the National Geographic Magazine . The end all of geographic news at the time , folks actually believed that master dons would suddenly rise from the dead and terrorize NYC AND MARCH DOWN WALL AND VINE TERRORIZING THE YOUNG AND OLD ALIKE . STILL AWAITING THAT EVENT TO UNFOLD even now . Then it shifted to Z-P-G . zero populati0n growth . Abortions if you wanted one , abortion’s for the rest to save the world from starvation was the plan . Now it is global warming , sea level rise all rolled up in climate change . We have heard about this threat for how long now but have precious little proof one way or the other . Have lived on the same patch of ground for 39 years on the water . Been expecting some change but according to my trusty transit , there has not been any discernible change . Was hoping for a little more water to arrive to float the family yacht. Oh well , another false promise dashed . Now we are off to meet the space aliens that have been invading our sky’s and seas . Suspect we have already met them and they are us .

David Collins

With all that said , there is always the odd ball event like Hurricane hazel , Donna ,.Carol and yes the one that messed up Charleston several years back . All things are possible which adds a bit of charm to the area . This is why the smart money builds on high ground robustly with safe rooms and ample supplies of everything necessary to support life . The rest just need to go north and west ASAP . I will be one of them this year .


Some of you may remember Bertha and floyd.. hurricanes run on heat. I understand a cat 6 is being considered, as storms grow ever larger and have higher wind speeds. There are some who scoff at global warming, warmer oceans bigger storms, more ice melt changing currents in Ocean. That n/ w passage that Henry Hudson looked for and failed to find is now a shipping route....

(Edited by staff.)


You're getting into the weeds for most of the folks here. Can you bring it down a level or two?


In the last 200 years, how many named storms have formed north of Cape Hatteras??? - in the cold waters of the North Atlantic. Anyone remember the year of the black snow??


There's one obvious thing that continues to fail to becoming the 'new normal'-

And that's Common sense!🤦‍♀️

sick and tired

Hurricanes? on the coast? Who ever heard of such a thing. I am pretty sure that they said last year was going to be the worst on record. Oh well, if you say it every year eventually you will be right. I would think people who live on the coast, especially North Carolina KNOW there will be hurricanes. I've lived here all my life and count on the fact that there will be a hurricane or 10 every year. It might destroy everything, it might not. Hurricanes are like a box of chocolates, you never know what you are going to get.

David Collins

Named storms , ha , ha , ha . What does it take for some fool to name a storm ? In these times , nothing . I can do that and so can you . Grow up and grab a set !

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