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How Bad Will Hurricane Season Be?

On NOAA’s annual outlook, LNG lawsuits, and peaker pollution.

Heatmap Illustration/Getty Images

Current conditions: Thousands of people in the Midwest are still without power in the aftermath of this week’s severe thunderstorms • A heat wave along the Gulf Coast could break temperature records over Memorial Day weekend • The UN says droughts, floods threaten a “humanitarian catastrophe” in southern Africa.


1. NOAA to release its Atlantic hurricane forecast

This morning, officials from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration will announce their predictions for the coming storm season in the Atlantic Ocean. Based on what we know already, it’s shaping up to be a doozy.

  • Researchers at Colorado State University, which has issued an annual hurricane season outlook since 1984, are predicting 23 named storms, nearly nine more than the 30-year average leading up to 2020.
  • The Weather Company and Atmospheric G2, a weather data company, predict 24 named storms, citing freakishly warm ocean waters and the shift from El Niño to La Niña conditions as reasons for the elevated forecast.
  • AccuWeather’s meteorologists gave themselves some wiggle room, predicting 20-25 named storms for this year, with a 10% to 15% chance of 30 or more, said lead hurricane forecaster Alex DaSilva.
  • Just yesterday, the U.K.’s Met Office predicted 22 named storms in the North Atlantic.

What all this means is not quite anybody’s guess, but it is far from certain. As Heatmap’s Jeva Lange has written, “describing hurricane seasons as ‘quiet’ or ‘active’ is really a matter of perspective, even if it makes for good headlines.” It all depends on where they land. If that’s along the Gulf Coast, Heatmap’s Matthew Zeitlin wrote, it could spoil what looks to be a mild summer for gasoline prices in addition to whatever physical and emotional devastation it might cause.

So far this year the Northern Hemisphere has yet to see a named storm, the latest we’ve gone without one since 1983, according to CSU’s Phil Klotzbach. When we do get one in the Atlantic, it’ll be called Alberto.

2. Nissan postpones some new EVs

Nissan is delaying an expansion of its electric vehicle lineup in response to slow sales growth. The automaker had announced plans last year to build five new EV models, including two electric sedans, at its factory in Canton, Mississippi, as part of a push to offer 19 EV models worldwide by 2030. Nissan is now shifting its focus to the crossover SUVs in its EV lineup while it continues work on the sedans.

“We are adjusting the timeline for the introduction of these five new models to ensure we bring the vehicles to the market at the right time, prioritizing in line with customer demand and maximizing the opportunity for our brands and supplier partners,” a Nissan spokesperson said in a statement to CNN.

3. Iowa tornadoes take out wind turbines

During the deadly storm that devastated the town of Greenfield, Iowa on Tuesday, a tornado also caused significant damage to a nearby wind farm. Footage from the storm shows multiple 250-foot turbines collapsing, one by one, as the tornado passes over them. MidAmerican Energy Company has reported the “unprecedented” destruction of five turbines at its Orient wind farm in Iowa. The company said some of its turbines recorded wind speeds above 100 miles per hour.

Wind turbines are designed to withstand extreme weather, and losses like this are rare, even in Tornado Alley. (Iowa ranks second after Texas in total wind power generation.) But weather patterns’ increasing unpredictability and severity due to climate change are making such events more likely. Most wind turbines are not equipped to handle direct hits from powerful tornadoes, according to researchers.

The tornado\u2019s aftermath in Greenfield, Iowa.The tornado’s aftermath in Greenfield, Iowa.Scott Olson/Getty Images

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  • 4. Alaskan youth challenge LNG export project

    Eight Alaskans between the ages of 11 and 22 are suing the state over a major liquified natural gas export project they say violates their constitutional rights. Alaska Gasline Development Corporation’s nearly $40 billion Alaska LNG project — which would include a treatment plant, a liquefaction facility, and an 800-mile gas pipeline stretching across the state — is projected to start exporting around 2030. Its shipments would go to Asia, where demand for LNG is expected to rise. The youth bringing the lawsuit argue that the project infringes on the freedoms afforded them by the Alaska constitution, including access to natural resources and protection from government overreach.

    “The acceleration of climate change that this project will bring will affect what the land provides and brings to my culture,” Summer Sagoonick, the 22-year-old lead plaintiff and a member the Iñupiaq tribe, told The Guardian. “I am counting on the courts to protect my rights.”

    5. Report: Gas peaker plants dirtier than their counterparts

    Gas “peaker” plants — those used by electric utilities mostly to satisfy peak demand — emit above-average amounts of pollution and are often located near historically disadvantaged communities, a new report from the Government Accountability Office found. The 999 peaker plants operating in the U.S. in 2021 provided just 3.1% of the country’s net electricity generation that year. But these peaker plants emitted sulfur dioxide and nitrogen oxides at much higher rates than non-peaker plants, in part because they often lack emissions control technologies, the report found. It pointed to battery storage systems as an alternative that can help meet fluctuating power demand but acknowledged that utilities are concerned about the impacts such a shift would have on grid reliability.


    NASA and IBM are releasing a new artificial intelligence model they hope will refine weather forecasting and climate simulations.

    Editor’s note: This post has been updated to clarify the region that has seen no named storms so far this year.

    Nicole Pollack profile image

    Nicole Pollack

    Nicole Pollack is a freelance environmental journalist who writes about energy, agriculture, and climate change. She is based in Northeast Ohio.


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