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Atlantic hurricane season

Batten down the hatches, folks. Photo: NOAA//UPI//Shutterstock

The Inertia

Hurricane researchers at Colorado State University (CSU) have crunched the numbers, and they’re predicting that this Atlantic hurricane season is going to be a doozy.

“When waters in the eastern and central tropical and subtropical Atlantic are much warmer than normal in the spring, it tends to force a weaker subtropical high and associated weaker winds blowing across the tropical Atlantic,” they wrote in a forecast summary. “These conditions will likely lead to a continuation of well above-average water temperatures in the tropical Atlantic for the peak of the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season. A very warm Atlantic favors an above-average season, since a hurricane’s fuel source is warm ocean water. In addition, a warm Atlantic leads to lower atmospheric pressure and a more unstable atmosphere. Both conditions favor hurricanes.”

Citing record-breaking warmth in tropical and eastern subtropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures, they believe that as many as 11 hurricanes. From 1991 to 2020, the average is 7.2 hurricanes.

According to their research, although the tropical Pacific is currently still in the midst of a waning El Niño pattern, it’s very likely that, by the peak of the Atlantic hurricane season (from August to October), it will switch to La Niña.

“La Niña tends to decrease upper-level westerly winds across the Caribbean into the tropical Atlantic,” they wrote. “These decreased upper-level winds result in reduced vertical wind shear, favoring Atlantic hurricane formation and intensification.”

With the combination of favorable hurricane conditions in the Atlantic and a developing La Niña, it sure looks as though the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season will be very active. This, in fact, is the highest number of hurricanes the CSU as ever issued. The previous record was nine.

They’re quick to say that this is just a prediction, and conditions may change as time goes on. “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–October,” the wrote.

Hurricane Season

The team at CSU anticipates that the 2024 Atlantic basin hurricane season will be extremely active. Image: CSU

As well as the 11 predicted hurricanes, the team at CSU thinks we’ll likely see 23 storms that are powerful enough to warrant a name.

So how do they come to these conclusions? Well, a big part of it is looking to the past to predict the future.

“The team bases its forecasts on a statistical model, as well as four models that use a combination of statistical information and model predictions of large-scale conditions from the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, the UK Met Office, the Japan Meteorological Agency, and the Centro Euro-Mediterraneo sui Cambiamenti Climatici,” they explained. “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 Niño (warming of waters in the central and eastern tropical Pacific), and other factors.
So far, the 2024 hurricane season is exhibiting characteristics similar to 1878, 1926, 1998, 2010 and 2020.”

Last year was a hurricane-filled one, too. In 2023, the hurricane activity was about 120 percent of the average season. This year is predicted to be about 170 percent of the average season from 1991–2020.


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