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ATLANTIC OCEAN - 8 SEPTEMBER: In this NOAA image taken by the GOES satellite, Hurricane Lee crosses the Atlantic Ocean as it moves west on 8 September 2023. (Photo by NOAA, Getty)

NOAA Predicts ‘Above-Normal’ Atlantic Hurricane Season, Releases Resources for Emergency Managers

As one of the strongest El Niño’s in history sunsets and a La Niña rises, forecasters are predicting above-normal hurricane activity in the Atlantic Ocean in 2024.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is predicting an 85 percent chance of an above-normal hurricane season—which runs from 1 June to 30 November—with just a 10 percent chance of a near-normal season and a 5 percent chance of a below-normal season.

NOAA anticipates that there will be 17 to 25 named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher), with 8 to 13 becoming hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), and of those, 4 to 7 becoming major hurricanes (winds of 111 mph or higher).

In the eastern Pacific region, however, NOAA is predicting a below-normal season (60 percent chance) between 15 May and 30 November, with a chance of a near-normal season (30 percent), and just a small chance of an above-normal season (10 percent). Forecasters anticipate that there will be 11 to 17 named storms, 4 to 9 hurricanes, and 1 to 4 major hurricanes.

Why is this above-normal activity in the Atlantic likely? Because of near-record warm temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, La Niña conditions in the Pacific, reduced Atlantic trade winds, less wind shear, and climate change, which combine to favor the formation of tropical storms, NOAA explained.

“Severe weather and emergencies can happen at any moment, which is why individuals and communities need to be prepared today,” said Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) Deputy Administrator Erik A. Hooks in a statement. “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 can make a difference in how people can recover tomorrow.”

Information for Security Practitioners

“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., in a statement. “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.”

For instance, this year the National Hurricane Center (NHC) will provide Spanish language text products of the following resources:

  • Public Advisories

  • Tropical Cyclone Discussion

  • Tropical Cyclone Update

  • Key Messages in the Atlantic basin

This is important since almost 500 million people around the world speak Spanish as their primary language; by 2060, the United States will likely be the “second-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, right after Mexico,” according to the Observatory of the Spanish Language and Hispanic Cultures in the United States—a collaboration between Harvard University and the Instituto Cervantes.

Beginning around 15 August, the NHC will also begin to issue an experimental version of its forecast cone graphic that will depict inland tropical storm and hurricane watches and warnings in the continental United States.

Additionally, the NHC will issue U.S. tropical cyclone watches and warnings with public advisories. This means NHC can notify the public in an intermediate advisory instead of waiting for the next full advisory, which is issued every six hours.

NOAA will also be using new tools to analyze hurricanes and forecasts for this season. One of the most important for security practitioners to note is NOAA’s next generation of Flood Inundation Mapping, which 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 explained.

Another critical resource to mark is NOAA’s Weather Prediction Center, which will issue experimental rainfall graphics 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,” NOAA explained.

Looking to the future, NOAA is upgrading its systems used to observe and forecast hurricanes. This includes new coastal weather buoys in the tropical western Atlantic and Caribbean to measure wind speeds and barometric pressure changes used for tropical cyclone forecasting.

NOAA is also deploying uncrewed surface vehicles—saildrones—to provide data in real time during the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season. Beginning in June, NOAA will use underwater gliders in the Caribbean, Gulf of Mexico, and Atlantic Ocean to collect data observations on developing tropical storms.

How Does this Compare to 2023?

The 2023 Atlantic hurricane season ranked fourth for the most-named storms in a single year with 20 incidents reaching this threshold. There were seven hurricanes, with three intensifying into major hurricanes, all of which fit into the NOAA Climate Prediction Center’s predicted ranges.

“The Atlantic basin produced the most named storms of any El Niño influenced year in the modern record,” said Matthew Rosencrans, lead hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center—a division of NOAA’s National Weather Service, in a statement. “The record-warm ocean temperatures in the Atlantic provided a strong counterbalance to the traditional El Nino impacts.”

Meanwhile in the Pacific, the hurricane season was also above normal with 17 named storms—10 of which became hurricanes, and 8 of those that transformed into major hurricanes.

The Pacific season also hit some major milestones, with Tropical Storm Hilary resulting in the first issuance of Tropical Storm Watches and Warnings for the Southern California coastline; Hurricane Otis recording the strongest landfall of any hurricane in the eastern Pacific when it struck near Acapulco, Mexico; and Hurricane Dora becoming the first major hurricane in the central Pacific basin since 2020.

While fourth in the overall ranking for named storms, 2023’s weather and climate disasters were the second costliest of any year on record.

“In total, 28 weather and climate disasters with losses exceeding $1 billion each affected the United States in 2023,” NOAA’s Office for Coastal Management said. “The combined total cost of these 2023 disasters is $93.1 billion. Only one other year (2017) had more billion-dollar disasters in the first six months, and 2023 was second only to 2021 for total damage costs through the first half of any year since 1980.”