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Hurricane season predicted to be far above average

ANNA MARIA ISLAND – The Island dodged direct hits from major hurricanes in 2022 (Ian) and 2023 (Idalia), but this year may be different, according to AccuWeather, whose prediction for 2024 is far above average.

AccuWeather’s team of expert meteorologists is warning people and businesses to start preparing for a frenzy of tropical activity that could have major impacts on the U.S. this hurricane season, which begins on June 1.

The AccuWeather 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast calls for 20 to 25 named storms, with eight to 12 of those storms forecast to strengthen into hurricanes and four to six directly impacting the U.S.

“The 2024 Atlantic hurricane season is forecast to feature well above the historical average number of tropical storms, hurricanes, major hurricanes and direct U.S. impacts,” AccuWeather Lead Hurricane Forecaster Alex DaSilva said. “All indications are pointing toward a very active and potentially explosive Atlantic hurricane season in 2024.”

AccuWeather’s forecast calls for a dramatic shift from the 2023 hurricane season. Nineteen storms were named in the Atlantic basin, but only four had direct impacts in the U.S. last year. Hurricane Idalia hit Florida as a Category 3 storm in August, directly affecting Anna Maria Island. Tropical Storm Harold soaked southern Texas in August. Tropical Storm Ophelia brought gusty wind and rough surf to North Carolina in September. Lee swiped the New England Coast as a tropical rainstorm, before making landfall in Nova Scotia.

DaSilva says there are four factors that indicate this year will possibly be record break­ing. The first problem is that ocean temperatures are very warm, and that’s basically food for hurricanes.

“Sea surface temperatures are well above historical average across much of the Atlantic basin, especially across the Gulf of Mexico, Caribbean and the Main Development Region,” DaSilva explained.

AccuWeather Chief Meteorologist Jon Porter said there is high confidence that that sea surface temperatures across the Atlantic basin will remain well above the historical average throughout the 2024 hurricane season.

“When you look back at historical sea surface temperature in the Atlantic’s Main Development Region, recent average water tem­peratures jump off the chart. They are the highest observed this early in the season in the available records,” Porter said. “This is a very concern­ing development considering this part of the Atlantic Ocean is where more than 80% of the storms form which go on to become tropical storms or hurricanes.”

AccuWeather also blames the flipping from El Nino to La Nina for the forecast. Even though the Pacific Ocean is thousands of miles away from the Atlantic, what happens there has major impacts on severe weather in Florida; especially hurricanes.

During an El Nino pattern, waters in the eastern Pacific are warmer than the historical average. In La Nina, sea surface temperatures in the eastern Pacific are cooler than the historical average. In short, this leads to less wind shear over most of the Atlantic basin, which when mixed with the warmer water, makes for perfect conditions for tropical development.

Other factors include weather patterns in Africa. A stronger African jet stream could jump-start the develop­ment of storms long before they make it here to the states. The strength, orientation and position of a feature known as the Bermuda-Azores high pressure area can have a major influence on the formation of tropical storms and hurricanes.

AccuWeather expert meteorologists say the Bermuda-Azores High can be offset farther south and east compared to the historical average, due to warmer sea surface temperatures.

While this forecast may not sound too good for Florida, or anywhere in the path of hur­ricanes, it remains a predic­tion, and many predictions don’t live up to expectations. Whether any given season is predicted to be intense, or more mild than usual, anyone living in the potential path of tropical storms or hurricanes should be well stocked and prepared for the worst, whether it happens or not. Preparation can save property and lives.

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