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Colorado State Predicts a 62% Chance of a major hurricane hitting the U.S. this season

As the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season kicks off, researchers at Colorado State University (CSU) are predicting a well above-average year for hurricane activity. With a combination of record-warm sea surface temperatures and a likely transition to La Niña conditions, the forecast suggests that this could be a historic season.

Key Predictions and Factors

According to the CSU Tropical Weather and Climate team, the 2024 hurricane season will see 23 named storms, 11 of which are expected to become hurricanes. Five of these hurricanes are projected to reach major hurricane status, classified as Category 3 or higher with sustained winds of 111 mph or greater. NOAA and other weather media outlets including the Weather Channel and Accuweather are also predicting an extremely active season.

The primary driver behind this forecast is the hot sea surface temperatures in the tropical and eastern subtropical Atlantic. These conditions are conducive to hurricane formation as warm ocean waters are the primary fuel for hurricanes. In addition, the CSU team anticipates a transition from the current El Niño conditions to La Niña by the peak hurricane season from August to October. La Niña typically results in decreased upper-level westerly winds across the Caribbean and tropical Atlantic, reducing vertical wind shear and favoring hurricane development and intensification.

“There was a big change in the atmospheric circulation that occurred last March 2023 where the Subtropical High-Pressure System weakened dramatically. When the Sub-Tropical High weakens – we have weaker winds blowing across the Tropical Atlantic – that means less evaporation off the ocean surface. Last year from March to June it warmed up dramatically and we’ve stayed at those above-normal levels since then,” said Dr. Phil Klotzback, Senior Research Scientist at Colorado State University’s Tropical Weather & Climate Research Division.

“Just given how warm the Atlantic is and the conditions changing in the Tropical Pacific conditions do look ripe for a very busy season coming up. But regardless of seasonal forecasts, people should be prepared for the season – it just takes one storm.”

Increased Risks for Gulf Coast Communities

CSU Predicts Increases Chances of Major Hurricane Landfall in the U.S.

Colorado State researchers are also predicting increased probabilities of a major hurricane making a U.S. landfall with the likely upswing of tropical activity in the Atlantic Basin. CSU predicts a 62% chance of a U.S. landfall from the Texas-Mexican Border near Brownsville to Maine. Additionally, the likelihood of an East Coast major hurricane landfall from the Florida peninsula to Maine is 34% and a 42% chance for a major storm hitting the Gulf Coast states. According to predictions, the Caribbean faces the greatest risk this year with a 66% chance of a landfalling hurricane during the 2024 season.

Historical Context

The CSU team’s predictions are based on statistical models and forecasts from major meteorological agencies. The current season’s characteristics are like past active years such as 1878, 1926, 1998, 2010, and 2020. There is consensus among forecasters on the likelihood of an active year. Klotzbach says 23 organizations have submitted seasonal forecasts to the Seasonal Hurricane Predictions platform with the overall average matching CSU prediction of 11 hurricanes developing this year.

Preparing for the Season

The CSU Tropical Weather and Climate team will release additional forecasts throughout the hurricane season beginning with its next update scheduled for June 11. Future season updates will be released on July 9th and August 6th. The height of hurricane season falls on September 10th and the season officially ends at the end of November.

I-DIEM will be covering this potentially historic hurricane season with dedicated content highlighting the impacts on marginalized communities. As disasters increase, so do the challenges faced by the elderly, communities of color, the homeless, migrants, Indigenous peoples, low-income populations, and other front-line communities.

About the Author: Greg Padgett is a previously certified Broadcast Meteorologist with the American Meteorological Society and the National Weather Association. He covered numerous hurricanes during a 15-year broadcasting career followed by a 15-year career as a FEMA external affairs and disaster resilience consultant. Mr. Padgett has been a member of the National Hurricane Conference’s Steering Committee since 2014. In his role as Director of External Affairs for I-DIEM, Mr. Padgett supports engagement with NOAA, the National Weather Service, and the National Hurricane Center.



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