2024 Atlantic hurricane season set to be the most active on record

The stage is set for what could be the most active Atlantic hurricane season in recorded history. Nearly every agency that puts out a tropical forecast is calling for an above average season, some even predicting a record number of named storms.

Atlantic hurricane season officially begins on 1 June and ends on 30 November.

In an average Atlantic hurricane season, there are 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes (storms reaching Category 3 strength or higher).

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is the main governing body to issue watches and warnings for much of the Atlantic Basin. They issue the most anticipated tropical seasonal forecasts, and this year is expected to far surpass an average year.


“The forecast for named storms, hurricanes, and major hurricanes is the highest NOAA has ever issued for the May outlook,” NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said at a press conference just before the season officially began.

NOAA’s official forecast called for 17-25 total named storms, 8-13 hurricanes, and 4-7 major hurricanes.

Colorado State University issued their very first seasonal Atlantic hurricane forecasts in 1984, making them the first entity to issue public hurricane predictions for the overall Atlantic basin. This year, they are also predicting their highest numbers ever in their initial report — 23 named storms, 11 hurricanes, and 5 major hurricanes.

The UK Met Office also issued their forecast for the upcoming season and has similar numbers of 22 total named storms, 12 hurricanes, and 4 major hurricanes.

For reference, the record for total named storms in a single year is 30 (set in 2020), and the record for the number of hurricanes is 15 (set back in 2005).


What happens when we run out of names?

There are only 21 names on the list for tropical storms in the Atlantic region, which means based off the predictions given above, it is likely we will run out of names before the season ends. So, what happens when the names run out? Prior to 2021, the Greek alphabet was used as a supplemental list. It has only been used twice: in 2005 and 2020. After Eta and Iota were ceremoniously retired in 2021 by the World Meteorological Organization, it was determined that a new supplemental list of names would be used in case the original list was depleted. If these early season predictions are anything to go by, this year might end up being the first time that new supplemental list is used.

The first named storm typically forms around June 20, with the heart of the season beginning in August and running through early October. With that said, the last nine years in a row have all had at least one named storm form before June 20, and this year could be the tenth.


“Remember it only takes one storm to devastate a community,” Spinrad said. “It’s prudent to prepare now because once the storm is headed your way it all happens so rapidly you won’t have the time to plan and prepare at that point.”

Our oceans are in hot water

One of the biggest contributing factors to the expected above average season is incredibly warm sea-surface temperatures.

Sea-surface temperatures (SST) have been record-breaking so far this year, not just globally, but particularly in the North Atlantic Basin, according to the University of Maine’s Climate Change Institute.


“Most of the models do have above normal sea surface temperatures across the entire Atlantic through the summer,” said Matt Rosencrans, NOAA’s lead for the seasonal hurricane outlook. “It’s not only favourable for more tropical activity, but it can be favourable for more extra-tropical activity as well, which means new tropical activity that forms north of 21 degrees north latitude.”

The main difference between tropical systems and extra-tropical systems are the core of the storm. Tropical systems have a warm core and extra-tropical ones have a cold core. However, the impacts these storms cause can be virtually the same: damaging winds, heavy rainfall, storm surge, etc.

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