This summer’s hurricane season will likely be dangerous

This summer’s hurricane season will likely be dangerous
Hurricane Florence, a category four hurricane as seen from the International Space Station, in the Atlantic Ocean in 2018. / Alexander Gerst
By bne IntelliNews May 26, 2024

The 2024 Atlantic hurricane season is expected to be highly active, according to early projections. The season starts on June 1.

Forecasts from the National Hurricane Centre suggest a season with a potentially significant number of named storms, hurricanes and major hurricanes by the conclusion of November, surpassing previous preseason predictions by the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

If the National Hurricane Centre’s early forecast, issued on May 23, is correct, the North Atlantic could see 17 to 25 named storms, eight to 13 hurricanes and four to seven major hurricanes by the end of November, according to the Conversation.

That’s the highest number of named storms in any NOAA pre-season forecast.

Echoing this intensity, other forecasts from institutions, such as Colorado State University and the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts, also anticipate a considerable number of named storms.

Notably, Colorado State University's forecast includes a substantial accumulation of cyclone energy units for the year, while NOAA projects the second-highest accumulated cyclone energy (ACE) on record.

This outlook places the 2024 season in a league similar to the exceptionally active 2020 season, characterised by a depletion of storm names due to the high number of storms.

Key contributing factors to this heightened activity include warm sea surface temperatures from climate change, particularly in the Atlantic Ocean, and the influence of the Atlantic Multidecadal Oscillation (AMO), a long-term climate pattern.

However, the influence on Atlantic hurricane activity extends beyond the Atlantic itself, reaching into the eastern Pacific Ocean. Here, the El Niño Southern Oscillation (ENSO) cycle, featuring warm (El Niño) and cold (La Niña) phases, plays a crucial role.

2020’s record hurricane season had the influence of both the cold La Niña and high Atlantic Ocean temperatures, a combination that forecasters expect this summer. La Niña, for instance, tends to reduce wind shear, thereby creating more favourable conditions for hurricanes in the Atlantic.

Nevertheless, even under less favourable conditions, storms can intensify if fuelled by warm ocean temperatures, which are becoming increasingly common at the climate crisis accelerates. To accurately predict and prepare for Atlantic hurricane seasons, it is essential to comprehend the intricate interplay between ocean temperatures, climate patterns and atmospheric conditions.

In the second half of May alone, there have been two fierce deadly storms in the US, in Iowa and Houston.

Last week in Iowa, a tornado with peak winds of 175-185 mph (281-298 kph) razed a community of 2,000, leaving four people dead and injuring at least 35. Turbines at a nearby wind farm were buckled.

On May 16, Houston, Texas was in the path of a phenomenon that meteorologists call a ‘derecho’ – a squall of thunderstorms, hurricane-force winds, heavy rains and flash floods. It killed at least eight people, and brought most of Houston to a standstill, reported Associated Press.

At least 15 people were killed on May 25-26 following severe storms and possible tornadoes in Arkansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma and Texas. As many as 25.6mn people were in areas with active National Weather Service advisories for extreme heat, or watches and warnings, said CNN.