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Experts Predict an Extremely Active Hurricane Season This Year

Researchers predict there will be 11 hurricanes, five of which will reach major hurricane strength, and 23 named storms due to a historically warm Atlantic Ocean and probable La Niña conditions.

For nearly three decades, researchers have been releasing early hurricane forecasts. Not once in an April outlook, the first one of the year, have they predicted more than nine hurricanes would occur in a single season.

In 2024, they are expecting 11.

Researchers at Colorado State University, which has a renowned tropical weather and forecast team, said a mix of ingredients will lead to an “extremely active” hurricane season. The main culprits behind the unusually busy outlook: A record warm Atlantic and a likely La Niña.

The team behind the forecast is predicting 23 named storms, of which 11 will become hurricanes and five will reach major hurricane strength with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or higher.

“Really one of the things we started thinking about last year was OK, the Atlantic is record warm, assuming the strong El Niño dissipates — which they normally do — how is that going to play out in 2024?” Philip Klotzbach, a meteorologist at Colorado State University, said during a presentation on the forecast Thursday.

There’s a 62 percent probability of a major hurricane making landfall along the U.S. coastline, which is higher than the 140-year average dating back to 1880. There’s a 75 percent probability of a hurricane tracking within 50 miles of Florida and 44 percent for a major hurricane.

While the April outlook can change as hurricane season unfolds, researchers are warning coastal residents to take precautions now for a potentially historic storm season.

“It takes only one storm near you to make this an active season for you,” said Michael Bell, a Colorado State University professor and an author of this year’s forecast.

Though there are still El Niño conditions lingering in the tropical Pacific, forecasters are anticipating a shift to La Niña at hurricane season’s peak from August to October. The La Niña weather pattern usually decreases westerly winds moving across the Caribbean, which means there is less wind shear that can cut down a hurricane’s strength.

The outlook stated the 2024 hurricane season is showing characteristics similar to other active years, like 1998, 2010 and 2020, which produced a record-breaking 30 named storms, of which six spun into major hurricanes.

An average year during the Atlantic hurricane season, for comparison, brings 14 named storms, which includes hurricanes, tropical storms or sub-tropical storms.

With human-caused climate change, the current scientific consensus is that hurricanes will become more intense globally as the planet continues to warm. Rainfall rates from hurricanes are also projected to increase, according to the most recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

Forecasters noted that the look-ahead is meant to provide a best estimate for how busy the Atlantic storm season could be. It’s not an exact measure, they said.

The forecast team will update their predictions in June, July and August as the storm season enters high gear. The Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30.

Last year scorching sea surface temperatures combined with a hurricane-busting El Niño complicated long-term forecasting. But this year, the record warm Atlantic combined with a coming La Niña — two factors that help hurricanes grow — means there’s more agreement now about what could be a busy season, Klotzbach said.

“This year I’d say we’re a little bit more confident, certainly than we were last year at this time,” Klotzbach said.

Long-range forecasts show the record sea temperatures — which are unlike any previous hurricane season — show no signs of abating.

Currently water temperatures in the main development region of the Atlantic, from Africa to the Caribbean Sea, are rivaling temperatures typically seen in mid June, according to data from the University of Miami. Outlooks from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration that predict sea surface temperatures in May, June and July show temperatures remaining a couple degrees above normal.

Researchers said warm Atlantic waters favor more hurricanes because they provide fuel for storms.

“It’s going to be hard to shake all that warmth between now and the peak of the season,” Klotzbach said.

©2024 Tampa Bay Times. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.
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