2024 hurricane season conditions 'concerning,' hurricane expert says

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On Monday, the director of the National Hurricane Center discussed what North Carolinians could see from the 2024 hurricane season.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has not released its official forecast for hurricane season. but Dr. Michael Brennan with the NHC said the combination of rising sea surface temperatures and a developing La Niña pattern make this year’s forecast “concerning.”

In 2023, the NOAA predicted a “nearly-normal” hurricane season. The most notable storm to reach NC was Idalia, which was a post-tropical cyclone.

Brennan, however, added that early spring forecasts for hurricane season can be unpredictable.

“I think the biggest note of caution right now…this sort of spring timeframe is sort of the lowest predictability for trying to figure out what’s going to happen with El Niño [and] La Niña,” he explained. “[Sea surface temperatures] have been very warm, but that can change with the pattern shift.”

Warming ocean temperatures, especially in the Gulf of Mexico, have fueled the rapid intensification of hurricanes over recent years.

Brennan said North Carolina could be on the receiving end of these hurricanes and storms in the coming years.

“There may be signs that rapid intensification is happening a little more often with a warming climate,” he said. “We’re most confident in the increasing impacts from storm surge, heavy rainfall [and] flooding.”

According to Brennan, 60% of people killed by hurricanes like Matthew, Florence and even Harvey in Texas died due to freshwater floodings.

Brennan said while NOAA can’t release an official hurricane season forecast yet, the National Hurricane Center is integrating new tools to measure hurricane strength, including a new, unmanned aircraft.

“[They] can fly down near the ocean surface for a couple of hours and collect data in an environment where we [can’t] get the information any other way,” Brennan said.

Brennan added the drone and “experimental data” will help meteorologists get the information in real-time.

As for artificial intelligence’s usefulness in hurricane predictions, Brennan said they have shown some good tracking skills but not for measuring a storm’s intensity.

He did note, however, that the improvements to AI are accelerating.

“They certainly can be beneficial, and that pace of change is accelerating,” he said. “I would not be surprised if we start to see improvements on those fronts in coming years.”