The 2024 Hurricane Outlook

Published: Updated:

Researchers predict a well above-average season

The hurricane research team at Colorado State University has issued its first 2024 Atlantic hurricane season forecast, and it is predicting an extremely active tropical weather season.

The 2024 Atlantic hurricane season runs from June 1 to Nov. 30. The research team at the CSU Tropical Meteorology Project is predicting 23 named storms this year, and that 11 of those named storms will become hurricanes. Of the 11 named storms, the CSU team expects five will reach major hurricane status. A major hurricane has sustained winds of at least 111 miles per hour and is classified as either a Category 3, 4, or 5 on the Saffir-Simpson scale. An average tropical weather season sees 14 storms, seven named storms, and three major hurricanes.

The two factors driving the anticipated increase in tropical weather activity this year are the warm temperatures in the Atlantic and the expected influence of a La Niña climate pattern in the Pacific. The sea-surface water temperatures in the Atlantic basin, especially in the Gulf of Mexico, the Caribbean, and the Main Development Region in the North Atlantic, were already well above average in March. That alone can often be enough to promote frequent hurricane development and rapid intensification. However, the anticipated transition to a La Niña pattern in late summer may enhance the potential for hurricane development even further.

“The tropical Atlantic is basically still record-warm, and a warmer Atlantic provides more fuel for hurricanes. That also tends to be associated with lower pressures, a more unstable atmosphere, and lower wind shear, which is the change in wind direction and speed with height in the atmosphere,” says Dr. Phil Klotzbach, a research scientist with the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State. “Too much shear is bad for hurricane development. Unfortunately, with a very warm Atlantic, that tends to reduce the shear. That’s combined with La Niña, which is colder than the normal water in the eastern and central Tropical Pacific. We anticipate a likely transition over to La Niña by the peak of the season, and that tends to also be associated with reduced levels of vertical wind shear.”

Klotzbach noted that, while the CSU team’s April forecast gets a good deal of media attention, the seasonal prediction will come into better focus when subsequent outlooks are released closer to hurricane season. However, he cautioned that, even if the expected transition to La Niña doesn’t occur, the Atlantic is still warm enough to indicate an above-normal hurricane season.

“In 2013, we forecast nine hurricanes in April and we got two, so that was a big forecast bust. But, in general, I would say we have more confidence in (the outlook) just because the Atlantic is so warm,” he says. “If we don’t get to La Niña, we’re likely to at least get to ‘neutral,’ (which is) a little bit colder than normal. But that would still likely lead to a pretty busy hurricane season. Our confidence is fairly high just because everything is acting in unison to help promote a well-above-normal season.”

For the 2024 season, the CSU research team is anticipating a 62% probability of at least one major hurricane making landfall somewhere along the coastline of the United States. The average for the years between 1880 and 2020 was 43%. In addition, the researchers say the chance of a major hurricane making landfall along the East Coast of the United States, including the Florida peninsula, is 34%; the 140-year average was 21%. As for a major hurricane hitting the Gulf Coast—from the Florida panhandle westward to Brownsville, Texas—the CSU team predicts a 42% probability. The average from 1880 to 2020 is 27%.

This year marks the 41st year that the CSU hurricane research team has issued its seasonal hurricane forecast for the Atlantic basin. So far, the 2024 season is exhibiting characteristics similar to hurricane seasons in the years 1878, 1926, 1998, 2010, and 2020, which were all seasons that presented above-normal Atlantic hurricane activity coming out of an El Niño pattern. Updated forecasts will be released by the CSU team on June 11, July 9, and Aug. 6.

AccuWeather, which released its preliminary outlooks in February and March, also projects a highly active Atlantic hurricane season. The AccuWeather team is predicting between 20 and 25 named storms for the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season, with a 10-15% chance of more than 30. Among those, they’re predicting eight to 12 hurricanes and four to seven major hurricanes reaching Category 3 or higher. Accuweather’s outlook also projects four to six hurricanes will directly affect the United States.

Alex DaSilva, AccuWeather’s Lead Hurricane Forecaster, said in a release that the Texas coast, Florida Panhandle, South Florida, and the Carolinas are facing a higher-than-average risk of direct impact from tropical weather in 2024. However, DaSilva also noted that, no matter where you live near or along the Gulf of Mexico or the Atlantic, you should still be prepared for a surge in tropical activity in 2024.

“We don’t want people to become complacent,” DaSilva says. “You must prepare every single year as if this is the year you’re going to be impacted by a major hurricane.”

Given the predictions of an active 2024 hurricane season, both Klotzbach and DaSilva stressed the importance of making your hurricane season preparations now. And rather than fixating on the number of storms in the forecast, simply remember that any storm can be dangerous and focus on the safety of you and your family all season long.

“No matter how busy a season could be, for any one spot along the coastline or any one county, the odds of being significantly impacted (by a hurricane) are quite low. But, given that Southwest Florida had a very bad hurricane recently, [that] doesn’t increase your odds or decrease your odds for the next year,” Klotzbach says. “Even if the seasonal forecast is a bust and we end up with two hurricanes, one of those hurricanes could affect Southwest Florida. So, now is the time to have your plan in place and to prepare your resources, because you don’t want to be doing it when the hurricane is beating down your door.”

Copyright ©2024 Fort Myers Broadcasting. All rights reserved.

This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without prior written consent.