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Forecast: Robust tropical storm season looms

The traditional hurricane season, which begins on June 1, may be the busiest in recent years.

John McCurry, Managing Editor

May 17, 2024

2 Min Read
Hurricane Season
Colorado State University weather forecasters predict 23 names tropical storms this year.stefanofiorentino/iStock/Getty Images Plus

Alberto, Beryl, Chris, Debby and Ernesto are among the uninvited guests potentially paying visits to the Delta region this summer and fall. If the visits come about, hopefully they won’t be as rude as past visitors such as Audrey, Betsy, Camille, Katrina and others that left their marks on the region.  

These are the names of this year’s tropical cyclones as chosen by an international committee of the World Meteorological Organization. There are 21 names on the annual list, with the same list rotating every six years. So, this year’s list will be used again in 2030. What happens if the number of named storms exceeds 21, as Colorado State University weather experts predict? Well, there is a supplemental list standing by, and if the CSU prediction of 23 named storms proves prophetic, Adria and Braylen would be the monikers for storms 22 and 23. And, if a storm wreaks an infamous amount of damage, its name is retired. Several dozen names have been retired since 1954. Katrina, Camille, Andrew and Hugo are among the names no longer used. 

CSU’s prediction, which is the first forecast of the season, exceeds the average for the 30-year period between 1991 and 2020, which was 14.4 named storms. The forecast calls for 11 hurricanes, five of which could be classified as major. 

Related:Farmers await busy storm season

Sea surface temperatures in the eastern and central Atlantic are currently at record warm levels and are anticipated to remain well above average for the upcoming hurricane season, CSU climatologists said.  

“A warmer-than-normal tropical Atlantic provides a more conducive dynamic and thermodynamic environment for hurricane formation and intensification. This forecast is of above-normal confidence for an early April outlook,” according to CSU. “We anticipate a well above-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean.” 

Hurricane seasons traditionally begin on June 1, but weather experts note it is possible for it to begin in late May. The season usually ends in November. However, some researchers have speculated that climate change is altering the length of the season.  

Digging deeper into CSU’s forecast, the chance of a major hurricane hitting the Delta region becomes clearer. There is a 42% chance of a Category 3, 4 or 5 storm along the Gulf Coast, from the Florida panhandle to Brownsville, Texas. Records show the chance of a major storm in the region between 1880 and 2020 to have been 27%. 

CSU’s annual early April forecast is not always accurate, and researchers there acknowledge it has “modest long-term skill when evaluated in hindcast mode.” However, that may not be the case this year. 

“While the skill of this prediction is low, our confidence is higher than normal this year for an early April forecast given how hurricane-favorable the large-scale conditions appear to be.” 

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