US forecasters see ‘extraordinary’ 2024 hurricane season


By Erwin Seba

HOUSTON (Reuters) -U.S. government forecasters said on Thursday the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season is shaping up to be “extraordinary” where past experience with tropical storms cannot serve as a prologue.

Warm sea temperatures and falling wind shear conditions at the height of the hurricane season, which begins on June 1, are expected to contribute to more and stronger storms this year, the forecasters said.

NOAA predicts there is an 85% chance for an above-average hurricane season, said Rick Spinrad, director of the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

“The forecast … is the highest NOAA has ever issued for the May outlook,” he told a news conference webcast from Washington D.C.

NOAA forecasters expect between four and seven major hurricanes, with wind speeds over 111 miles per hour (178 kph), out of eight to 13 hurricanes (winds over 74 mph or 119 kph), as well as between 17 and 25 named tropical storms (winds of at least 39 mph or 63 kph), Spinrad said.

An average hurricane season produces 14 named storms, of which seven lead to hurricanes and three become major.

In 2023 there were three major hurricanes that formed among seven hurricanes and 20 named storms, the fourth greatest number of named storms since 1950. The most damaging, Idalia, tore up the west coast of Florida and made landfall as a category 3 hurricane.

NOAA’s forecast is among several closely monitored by coastal communities and energy companies.

The widely watched Colorado State University forecast issued in April projected five major hurricanes out of 11 total hurricanes that are part of a projection for 23 named tropical storms.

The U.S. Gulf of Mexico accounts for 15% of total U.S. crude oil production and 5% of its dry natural gas output, and nearly 50% of the nation’s oil-refining capacity resides on its shores.

NOAA’s forecast is in line with other initial outlooks. Private forecaster AccuWeather has said there is a 10-15% chance of 30 or more named storms in the 2024 hurricane season, which runs to Nov. 30.

(Reporting by Erwin Seba; Editing by Chizu Nomiyama and Mark Heinrich)

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