Florida’s Daunting 2024 Hurricane Forecast

Record high ocean temperatures could lead to a dangerously active hurricane season

We are officially within the 2024 Atlantic hurricane season here in the United States, and just a couple weeks ago, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its forecast for this year’s season. The outlook will blow you away.

NOAA, which houses the National Weather Service and the National Hurricane Center, predicts there is an 85% chance the 2024 season will be “above normal,” thanks to near-record-high ocean temperatures and the onset of La Niña. This dire forecast has serious implications for communities living in hurricane-prone areas like Florida.

Experts are predicting this season could bring:

  • Between 17 and 25 named storms (storms with winds of at least 39 mph).
  • Between 8 and 13 of these will be hurricanes (storms with winds of at least 79 mph).
  • Between 4 and 7 of these will be major hurricanes (categories 3, 4 and 5 storms). 

For context, the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, which was the fourth most active on record, experienced 20 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

For me and my community here in the Tampa Bay region of Florida, these numbers are sobering. Due to our location, Florida is the state most vulnerable to hurricanes and tropical storms. We’ve been hit by twice as many storms as the second-place state, Texas. Florida’s residents are no strangers to hurricanes, and we are innately aware of the harm they cause us. Just last year, Category 4 Hurricane Idalia brought record storm surge, flooding and nearly $3.5 billion worth of damages to Florida’s Big Bend region, the strongest storm to hit the area since 1950. 

In 2022, the catastrophic Hurricane Ian made landfall on the Gulf coast of Florida. It would become the second deadliest hurricane of the 21st century (after Katrina) and the costliest hurricane in Florida’s history. As these recent events and NOAA’s 2024 forecast confirm, our storms are getting worse. They are more likely to become major hurricanes and intensify quickly, giving us less time to prepare and evacuate. Warmer oceans result in more precipitation and more coastal flooding, and that is a scary thought for Florida residents like me.

Hurricane damage

These monster storms are no mystery, though. Temperatures in tropical waters across the Atlantic are through the roof this year, with over 90% of the area’s sea surface experiencing record or near-record warmth. Warm water is like rocket fuel to hurricanes, providing the perfect set of meteorological factors to produce strong storms that can rapidly intensify and wreak serious havoc. As climate change continues to heat our ocean, we can expect warmer water to power more and more dangerous storms in addition to some other serious marine challenges

The good news is that we at Ocean Conservancy know what is causing climate change, so we know how to lessen its worst impacts such as warming oceans. We need to transition away from fossil fuels to cleaner sources of energy as quickly as possible and restore coastal ecosystems which absorb storm surge and protect communities. These things are the first steps to sparing places like Florida from a stormy future. Please join us in this important work, and, together, we can turn the tide on weather challenges to Florida.

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