2024 Extended Range Hurricane Season Forecast

On April 4th, the Department of Atmospheric Science at Colorado State University (CSU) released their Extended Range Forecast of Atlantic Seasonal Hurricane Activity and Landfall Strike Probability for 2024. Unsurprisingly, it aligned with other extended range forecasts we’ve already seen this year. CSU is predicting an above average activity level for this Atlantic hurricane season. 

The question is, what does this really mean for the USVI, or for any community familiar with the worries of hurricane season?

First, remember that it only takes one storm to turn a quiet season into an active one for any community. All preparations should be made as early as possible, no matter what the extended range forecast looks like. 

There are two main factors that are generally considered to be the “engine” of this hurricane season. Number one, the anticipated transition to a La Niña weather pattern. Number two, the unseasonably warm sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic, the Caribbean, and the Gulf of Mexico. The combination of a La Niña, which historically decreases wind shear in the Atlantic Basin, and warmer sea surface temperatures creates a very favorable environment for hurricanes to form. When compared with historical data from similar seasons, this gives the forecasters confidence in their above average extended range forecast. 

However, there are many other factors to consider. A strong Saharan Air Layer, for example, helps to inhibit tropical cyclone activity. An active Saharan dust season could change the forecast. Furthermore, it is impossible to predict, in an extended range format, where any given storm is going to make landfall. Specific tracking forecasts are much shorter range. These become more accurate the smaller the window of observation becomes. As hurricane season heats up, it’s important to monitor the five- and three-day forecasts coming out of the National Hurricane Center (NHC).

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, we must remember that the term “category” classifies hurricanes on the Saffir-Simpson scale. When considering the risks associated with a storm, remember the Saffir-Simpson scale considers wind speeds and wind damage, primarily. Assessing risk based on this classification alone discounts hazards associated with heavy rain, storm surge, and slow moving storm systems. These can be just as dangerous as wind, if not more so. 

Overall, when dealing with extended range forecasts, use them as general guidance and useful reminders to complete your preparedness activities well in advance of a storm. Make sure you know the most reliable sources of information, like VITEMA, FEMA, NHC, and the National Weather Service (NWS). Learn about the hazards and risks you may face in a storm, and determine the best course of action to keep your household safe. Build or restock your emergency kit. Visit Ready.gov to ensure that you have developed strong emergency preparedness plans with your family, coworkers, and church, and work to build a culture of preparedness in your community. Remember, these forecasts are tools that can help you make strong plans.