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The reason why the 2024 hurricane season could be especially dangerous

With this year’s hurricane season now officially underway, there are a series of factors and conditions that could make it unusually busy compared to other years.

Según el Servicio Meteorológico Nacional (NWS), Illinois, Iowa y Missouri están bajo vigilancia de tornado. Aquí las zonas afectadas.
Ronald W. Erdrich/Abilene Reportvia REUTERS

This year’s hurricane season is set to see more activity than usual with forecasters at the NOAA National Weather Service predicting that the number of named storms could rise by over 25 per cent compared to previous years. The average number of named storms per year is 14. Last year, there was 13 but this year, the Climate Prediction Center is predicting an 85% chance of an above-normal season, a 10% chance of a near-normal season and a 5% chance of a below-normal one.

The NOAA already has a list of 21 names for the storms to come in the Atlantic basin (Northern Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea and Gulf of Mexico). but due to a series of contributory circumstances and conditions, we could see as many as 25 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher) and possibly new records set. The names are the same ones used in 2018, and will be used again in 2030.

The 2024 Atlantic hurricane season started on Saturday and runs through to 30 November with the peak usually around late August/early September. The National Hurricane Center (NHC) will start publishing its seasonal storm forecast cone graphic from 15 August. This gives hurricane warnings, tracking and other related information such as risk of tornadoes, expected landfall, flooding, hail... etc.

In fact it’s been a fairly quiet couple of days so far and no development of tropical cyclones is expected during the next seven days.

Why are forecasters expecting 2024 to be a record hurricane season?

Meteorologists cite a number of factors such as near-record warm ocean temperatures in the tropical belt of the Atlantic Ocean. Surface temperatures in 90 percent of the area have been higher than usual since the spring and are now already at average levels for August. In March, the average global sea surface temperature (SST) was recorded at 69.93 degrees F - the warmest on record. According to the Copernicus Climate Change Service (C3S), SSTs have increased in most parts of the ocean since 1990 although not uniformly and some areas have cooled.

The average sea surface temperature over the global extrapolar ocean (60 degrees south to 60 degrees north) has increased by about 0.6°C over the last four decades and about 0.9°C since the pre-industrial era. This January figure was 20.97° Celsius - 0.26°C warmer than the previous record set in January 2016. C3S Deputy Director Samantha Burgess explained, “2024 starts with another record-breaking month - not only is it the warmest January on record but we have also just experienced a 12-month period of more than 1.5°C above the pre-industrial reference period”.

The trend has continued from January through to May with climate records for both air temperature and ocean surface temperatures.

Warm water is one of the factors that contribute to the development of hurricanes. Others include what is happening right now in the Pacific with La Niña (when surface water temperatures over a large area of the Pacific drop by at least 0.5°C below the historical average for three months or more), reduced Atlantic trade winds and less wind shear - all of which are underlying factors involved in tropical storm formation.

This year the NHC has forecast between four and seven major hurricanes (categories 3, 4 or 5 with winds in excess of 111 mph) at the height of the hurricane season.

When is the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season?

The NOAA add that the 2024 hurricane season also has the potential for an above-normal west African monsoon. That produces African easterly waves that germinate some of the strongest and longer-lived Atlantic storms. Also, light trade winds allow hurricanes to grow in strength without the disruption of strong wind shear, and also minimize ocean cooling.

The 2024 Atlantic hurricane season begins on Saturday 1 June and runs until Saturday 30 November and from 15 August, The NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center will update the 2024 Atlantic seasonal outlook in early August, prior to the peak of the season.

With another active hurricane season approaching, NOAA’s commitment to keeping every American informed with life-saving information is unwavering,” said NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad, Ph.D. “AI-enabled language translations and a new depiction of inland wind threats in the forecast cone are just two examples of the proactive steps our agency is taking to meet our mission of saving lives and protecting property.”