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Beyond The Forecast – Why is the forecast this hurricane season so active?

Happy Monday, and welcome to another edition of Beyond The Forecast.

Recently, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its forecast for the 2024 hurricane season, and they’ve never forecast a number this high right out of the gates.

The 2024 Atlantic hurricane season forecast according to NOAA.

The 2024 Atlantic hurricane season forecast according to NOAA.

It may seem bullish, but there are two key reasons for a forecast like this.

One such reason is the abnormal warmth in parts of the Atlantic.

Brian McNoldy is a Senior Research Associate with the University of Miami. On the first day of the Atlantic hurricane season (June 1), he made note that the ocean heat content in the Main Development Region for Atlantic tropical systems was comparable to what you’d expect in August.

Tropical systems feed off warm waters and, specifically, warm waters that extend into the depths of the ocean.

At the surface, the Gulf is already very warm. It takes an ocean temperature of 80°F for tropical systems to start brewing.

Gulf ocean temperatures are already well into the 80s just three days into Atlantic hurricane season.

Gulf ocean temperatures are already well into the 80s just three days into Atlantic hurricane season.

While the season may have started June 1, the most active period is typically late August through mid-October.

The peak of Atlantic hurricane season is most often August 20 to October 10.

The peak of Atlantic hurricane season is most often August 20 to October 10.

I posted this series of maps to show when and where storms form most often, as the season runs through the end of November.

Another thing that’s driving such an active forecast is the increasing chance of La Niña.

La Niña refers to cooler ocean waters off the coast of Peru.

While that may seem irrelevant, studies and analysis have shown that this decreases wind shear (changing wind with height) in the Atlantic.

The role La Niña plays on the Atlantic hurricane season

The role La Niña plays on the Atlantic hurricane season

Oddly enough, hurricanes thrive off of little wind shear. If you think of hurricanes like a stack of pancakes, they thrive when the bottom layer and top layer are stacked evenly.

You may think we’re “protected” from being this far inland, but we’ve seen time and time again the impacts of tropical systems in our area.

From Camille in 1969 to Michael in 2018 and several storms in 2020, we get heavy rain and flooding, as well as isolated tornadoes on the outer rings of tropical systems.

You can always get specific forecast details for your zone, whether it’s the Roanoke Valley, the Lynchburg area, the New River Valley, Southside or the Highlands anytime at WSLS.com/weather. Know your zone!

In case you missed it, we have other great weather and science content on WSLS.com as well.

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Source: WSLS News 10

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