Wednesday, June 12, 2024

NOAA Forecasting Above-Normal Hurricane Activity this Season

NOAA’s GOES-16 satellite captured Hurricane Idalia approaching the western coast of Florida while Hurricane Franklin churned in the Atlantic Ocean at 5:01 p.m. EDT on August 29, 2023. (NOAA)

COLLEGE PARK, Md. — National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Weather Service forecasters at the Climate Prediction Center are predicting above-normal hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin this year.

Citing La Nina and warmer-than-average ocean temperatures, NOAA’s outlook for the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season, which spans from June 1 to Nov. 30, is forecasting a range of 17 to 25 total named storms. NOAA predicts 8 to 13 of those will become hurricanes, including 4 to 7 major hurricanes — categories 3, 4 or 5.

Forecasters said they have a 70% confidence in these ranges.

In addition to near-record warm ocean temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and the development of La Nina conditions in the Pacific, NOAA said reduced Atlantic trade winds and less wind shear also tend to favor tropical storm formation.

A summary infographic showing hurricane season probability and numbers of named storms predicted from NOAA’s 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook. (Image credit: NOAA)

“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. “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.”

“Severe weather and emergencies can happen at any moment, which is why individuals and communities need to be prepared today,” added FEMA Deputy Administrator Erik A. Hooks. “Already, we are seeing storms move across the country that can bring additional hazards like tornadoes, flooding and hail. Taking a proactive approach to our increasingly challenging climate landscape today can make a difference in how people can recover tomorrow.”

A summary graphic showing an alphabetical list of the 2024 Atlantic tropical cyclone names as selected by the World Meteorological Organization. The official start of the Atlantic hurricane season is June 1 and runs through November 30. (Image credit: NOAA)

As one of the strongest El Ninos ever observed nears its end, NOAA said its scientists predict a quick transition to La Nina conditions, which are conducive to Atlantic hurricane activity because La Nina tends to lessen wind shear in the tropics. At the same time, abundant oceanic heat content in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea creates more energy to fuel storm development.

This hurricane season also features the potential for an above-normal west African monsoon, which can produce African easterly waves that seed some of the strongest and longer-lived Atlantic storms, NOAA explained. Meanwhile, light trade winds allow hurricanes to grow in strength without the disruption of strong wind shear while minimizing ocean cooling.

NOAA also noted that human-caused climate change is warming oceans globally and in the Atlantic basin, and melting ice on land, leading to sea level rise, which increases the risk of storm surge. Sea level rise represents a clear human influence on the damage potential from a given hurricane, NOAA said.

Enhanced communications in store for 2024 season

NOAA said it is implementing improvements to its forecast communications, decision support and storm recovery efforts this season, including:

  • The National Hurricane Center (NHC) will expand its offering of Spanish language text products to include all Public Advisories, the Tropical Cyclone Discussion, the Tropical Cyclone Update and Key Messages in the Atlantic basin.
  • Beginning on or around August 15, NHC will start to issue an experimental version of the forecast cone graphic that includes a depiction of inland tropical storm and hurricane watches and warnings in effect for the continental U.S. Research indicates that the addition of inland watches and warnings to the cone graphic will help communicate inland hazards during tropical cyclone events without overcomplicating the current version of the graphic.
  • This season, the NHC will be able to issue U.S. tropical cyclone watches and warnings with regular or intermediate public advisories. This means that if updates to watches and warnings for storm surge or winds are needed, the NHC will be able to notify the public in an intermediate advisory instead of having to wait for the next full advisory issued every 6 hours.

New tools for hurricane analysis and forecasting this year

NOAA added it is also adding new forecasting tools, including:

  • Two new forecast models developed by NOAA researchers will go into operation this season: The Modular Ocean Model or MOM6 will be added to the Hurricane Analysis and Forecast System to improve the representation of the key role the ocean plays in driving hurricane intensity. Another model, SDCON, will predict the probability of tropical cyclone rapid intensification.
  • NOAA’s new generation of Flood Inundation Mapping, made possible through President Biden’s Bipartisan Infrastructure Law, will provide information to emergency and water managers to prepare and respond to potential flooding and help local officials better prepare to protect people and infrastructure.
  • NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center, in partnership with the NHC, will issue an experimental rainfall graphic for the Caribbean and Central America during the 2024 hurricane season. This graphic provides forecast rainfall totals associated with a tropical cyclone or disturbance for a specified time period.

System upgrades in operation

NOAA said it will also upgrade observing systems it notes are critical in understanding and forecasting hurricanes. These projects will provide more observations of the ocean and atmosphere in the Caribbean, the Gulf of Mexico, on the U.S. East Coast and in the tropical Atlantic.

About NOAA seasonal outlooks

NOAA stresses outlook is for overall seasonal activity and not a landfall forecast. In addition to the Atlantic seasonal outlook, NOAA also issues seasonal hurricane outlooks for the eastern Pacific, central Pacific and western north Pacific hurricane basins.

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said it will update the 2024 Atlantic seasonal outlook in early August ahead of the historic peak of the season.

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