Is 2024 going to be a hyperactive hurricane season?

Unpacking the what and why of the NOAA predictions

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Susan Meyer

Senior Editorial Manager

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Susan is a licensed insurance agent and has worked as a writer and editor for over 10 years across a number of industries. She has worked at The Zebr…

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Ross Martin

Insurance Writer

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Ross joined The Zebra as a writer and researcher in 2019. He specializes in writing insurance content to help shoppers make informed decisions.

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Stormy weather ahead?

While most people are spending the end of May and early June excited for graduation season and the start of summer, June 1 marks another important distinction: the official start of the Atlantic hurricane season.

This year, that date has been marked with a flurry of news coverage because according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the 2024 hurricane season is expected to be a particularly active one.

So let’s break down what that really means, what the predictions are and how you can prepare if you live in a coastal region.

What’s the forecast for hurricane season?

In 2024, the Atlantic hurricane season runs from Saturday June 1 to Saturday November 30. This time period is considered the official season because historically 97% of all tropical storms and hurricanes appear during this window.[1] The NOAA predicts that there is an 85% chance of seeing “above normal” hurricane activity this year. 

Specifically, they predict between 17 to 25 named storms. Not all named storms are hurricanes; some stay tropical storms. In order to earn a name, a storm has to have winds of 39 mph or higher. Of those named storms predicted, 8 to 13 of them are expected to become hurricanes. A hurricane is a storm with winds of 74 mph or higher. Of these hurricanes, 4 to 7 of them are predicted to be major hurricanes. A major hurricane is a Category 3, 4 or 5 storm meaning the winds reach speeds of 111 mph or higher.[2]

What's a normal hurricane season?

For comparison, a “normal” hurricane season brings an average of 14 named storms with 7 becoming hurricanes and three becoming major hurricanes.

Why are more hurricanes than normal predicted?

The hyperactive hurricane season is based on several factors acting together. These include:

  • Near-record warm ocean temperatures. The ocean is currently about 2 degrees Fahrenheit hotter than the average temperature over the last three decades.[3] Warmer oceans mean better conditions for tropical storms forming — and for them escalating into hurricanes. 
  • La Niňa climate pattern returns. While the El Niño weather pattern is known to suppress Atlantic hurricane activities, climate predictors believe there will soon be a change to La Niňa which does the opposite by decreasing atmospheric stability and providing better conditions for storm development.[4]
  • Reduced Atlantic trade winds and wind shear. Since hurricanes are characterized by high winds, you would think less wind would be good right? Actually, light trade winds allow hurricanes to grow in strength without disruption.

How does this compare to previous years?

If you live in a coastal area that has been ravaged by hurricanes for the last few years, you might be asking: how does this prediction compare to the realities of previous years?

In 2023, we experienced the fourth most active Atlantic hurricane season on record. This meant 20 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.[5] It’s worth noting that predictions for that year were for a near-normal hurricane season with only 12-17 named storms forecasted with 5 to 9 hurricanes and 1 to 4 major hurricanes. The number of storms was underestimated, but the rest of the predictions were on the high side of the estimates, but otherwise accurate.[6]

In 2022, the hurricane season was just about average (14 named storms, eight hurricanes and two major hurricanes).[7] This time the predictions were actually overestimated at the NOAA predicted above-average hurricane activity, estimating 14 to 21 named storms, 6 to 10 hurricanes, and 3 to 6 major hurricanes). Again not too far off, but either low or at the low end of estimates.[8] 

These illustrate that while the NOAA predictions are based on scientific data, they are still estimates and aren’t a guarantee of what will happen. Hopefully, the predictions for 2024, will be an overestimate as in 2022, and not an underestimation as in 2023.

How can you prepare?

Hurricanes can have devastating consequences to coastal towns and cities. High winds and flooding from storm surges can cause billions of dollars in damages.

If you live on the Atlantic or Gulf Coast, here are some ways you can prepare for the 2024 hurricane season to be ready no matter how active it turns out to be:

  1. Stay informed. The National Hurricane Center includes all public advisories and tropical cyclone updates. This year, it is expanding to offer information in Spanish as well.[9]
  2. Know how to prepare your home and get to safety. We’ve provided a more comprehensive resource on how to prepare for hurricanes. Learn how to prepare your home in advance, so you’re ready if a storm is heading your way.
  3. Know your insurance. Read through your existing home insurance or renters insurance and car insurance policies to make sure your coverage is up to date.

Wrapping up

We'll know if the NOAA forecast is accurate by November. Right now, the best thing to do is to prepare for a hyperactive storm season. Then, we hope that the atmospheric and ocean conditions that seem perfect for fueling strong storms will underdeliver.

Sources
  1. Here's why Atlantic hurricane season runs from June to November. [Fox News]

  2. NOAA predicts above-normal 2024 Atlantic hurricane season. [NOAA]

  3. This chart of ocean temperatures should really scare you. [Vox]

  4. Impacts of El Niño and La Niña on the hurricane season. [Climate.gov]

  5. 2023 Atlantic hurricane season ranks 4th for most-named storms in a year. [NOAA]

  6. NOAA predicts a near-normal 2023 Atlantic hurricane season. [NOAA]

  7. Damaging 2022 Atlantic hurricane season draws to a close. [NOAA]

  8. NOAA predicts above-normal 2022 Atlantic Hurricane Season. [NOAA]

  9. National Hurricane Center. [NOAA]