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‘Extremely active’ hurricane season predicted

By CJ HADDAD - | May 30, 2024

While all was quiet on the Southwest Florida front when it came to the 2023 Atlantic Hurricane season, early indications from forecasters are scripting a different story for ’24.

Researchers at Colorado State University, one of the leading entities in hurricane season forecasts (now in its 41st year), are predicting an “extremely active” season in their initial 2024 estimate.

The team points to record warm tropical and eastern subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures as a primary factor for the high number this year.

The CSU Tropical Weather and Climate team is predicting 23 named storms during the Atlantic hurricane season, which runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. Of those, researchers forecast 11 to become hurricanes and five to reach major hurricane strength (Saffir/Simpson Category 3,4,5) with sustained winds of 111 miles per hour or greater.

“Our analog seasons were all very active Atlantic hurricane seasons,” wrote Phil Klotzbach, senior research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science at CSU and lead author of the report. “This highlights the somewhat lower levels of uncertainty that exist with this outlook relative to our typical early April outlook.”

CSU experts state their outlook for the season is based on extremely warm Atlantic temperatures and high probability of La Nina conditions, or when temperatures in the Pacific are lower than long-term normals, causing implications across the Atlantic. This is the highest prediction for hurricanes that CSU has ever issued with their April outlook, though the team stresses that the April outlook historically has the lowest level of skill of CSU’s operational seasonal hurricane forecasts, given the considerable changes that can occur in the atmosphere-ocean between April and the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season from August to October.

CSU predicts that hurricane activity in ’24 will be about 170% of the average season from 1991-2020. By comparison, last year’s hurricane activity was about 120% of the average season.

The CSU team bases forecasts on a statistical model, as well as four models that use statistical information and model predictions of large-scale conditions from various domestic and international models. CSU states these models use 25-40 years of historical hurricane seasons and evaluate conditions including: Atlantic sea surface temperatures, sea level pressures, vertical wind shear levels (the change in wind direction and speed with height in the atmosphere), El Nino (warming of waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific), and other factors.

The CSU team will again issue forecast updates on June 11, July 9 and Aug. 6.

Weather experts and forecasters with AccuWeather are predicting a potentially “explosive” season on the horizon, also pointing to warm water temps. They are also pointing to a swift change from El Nino to La Nina conditions.

Experts said La Nina results in wind shear, or “less disruptive winds,” over the majority of the Atlantic basin.

“It can be helpful to visualize a stack of pancakes,” AccuWeather Lead Hurricane Forecaster Alex DaSilva explained in a report. “When there is a high amount of wind shear, the top of a tropical system can be pushed and tilted away from its base, causing it to become lopsided. If a mature hurricane is in place, it may weaken but will not necessarily dissipate.

“A tall, neat stack is what a tropical system wants to be, but wind shear can cause some pancakes to be displaced and the stack could fall over.”

He said the faster the transition to La Nina occurs, the more active the hurricane season is likely to be.

DaSilva added that, “The 2024 Atlantic hurricane season is forecast to feature well above the historical average number of tropical storms, hurricanes, major hurricanes and direct U.S. impacts.”

Although the Atlantic hurricane season does not open until June 1, the AccuWeather team of long-range forecasters state it’s never too early to prepare. Last year saw 19 named storms with four direct U.S. impacts, including the Category 3 Idalia.

Heading into the ’24 season, DaSilva said, “Sea-surface temperatures are well above historical average across much of the Atlantic basin, especially across the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and the Main Development Region (for hurricanes).”

AccuWeather said the Atlantic water temperatures observed this March were around, or even warmer prior to the blockbuster 2005 and 2020 hurricane seasons.

Overall, AccuWeather meteorologists have forecasted 20-25 named storms across the Atlantic basin this season, including eight to 12 hurricanes, of which four to seven being major, and four to six direct U.S. impacts.

The Texas coast, Florida Panhandle, South Florida and the Carolinas are at a higher-than-average risk of direct impacts.

“All residents and interests along the U.S. coast, including Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands, should have a hurricane plan in place and always be fully prepared for a direct impact,” DaSilva added.