Busy 2024 Hurricane Season Expected – What It Means for Cruises

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The first prediction for the 2024 Atlantic Hurricane Season has been released from Colorado State University, and the implications at first look like a hectic, even dangerous season for cruise travelers. Let’s break down the numbers and see what they really mean and how hurricanes could impact cruise vacations in the coming months.

First 2024 Hurricane Season Prediction

Colorado State University has predicted that 2024 will be an “extremely active” Atlantic hurricane season with their initial forecast, released two months before the season begins.

With warmer than typical sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean regions in early spring, as well as transitioning El Niño and La Niña conditions later in the season, both water temperatures and wind patterns are likely to support the formation of more and stronger storms in 2024.

The forecast predicts a total of 23 named storms, including both tropical storms and hurricanes for the full six months of the season, from June 1 through November 30. Of those, 11 are predicted to become hurricanes with sustained wind speeds of at least 74 miles per hour.

A total of 5 major hurricanes are predicted. To be classified as a major storm, wind speeds must reach at least 111 miles per hour for Category 3 status (131 mph for Category 4, and 155 mph for Category 5).

Hurricane in the Caribbean
Hurricane in the Caribbean (Photo Credit: Drew McArthur)

It must be noted that the overall number of storms predicted gives no indication of whether or not such storms will actually make landfall. Named storms, for example, include so-called “fish storms” that may spin ferociously out in the Atlantic but come nowhere near land.

Read Also: How a Hurricane Could Affect Your Cruise

Similarly, the entire hurricane-prone region is a vast geographical space, and even with a high number of storms, there is no guarantee that any one area will – or won’t – be hit with a storm impact.

“It takes only one storm near you to make this an active season for you,” said Professor Michael Bell, one of the forecast’s authors.

But Where Will Storms Hit?

Of course, cruise travelers are most interested in whether or not tropical storms and hurricanes may impact their sailings, whether that means homeport disruptions or port of call changes.

Further analysis of the models used for the prediction indicates that there is a 62% probability of a major hurricane making landfall somewhere on the US coastline (above the 1880-2020 actual average of 43%). For the east coast, including the Florida peninsula and the Sunshine State’s five cruise homeports, that percentage is 34% (above the historic average of 21%).

For the US Gulf Coast, from the Florida panhandle to south Texas, including the homeports of Mobile, New Orleans, and Galveston, the probability of a major hurricane landfall is 42%, above the historic average of just 27%.

Hurricane in the Caribbean
Photo Credit: Mike Mareen / Shutterstock

When the geographical landfall prediction is expanded to the entire Caribbean – including many top cruise ports – there is a 66% chance of a major hurricane landfall, above the historic average of 47%.

These percentages only concern official landfall statistics. Large storms, however, can have a significant impact on coastlines and port communities even if the center of the storm – where landfall is recorded – remains far out to sea.

How Confident Is the Prediction?

With the official start of hurricane season not until June 1, how likely is a prediction made two months early to be accurate? Any prediction has some degree of uncertainty, but as this season’s spring conditions are showing strong similarities to 1878, 1926, 1998, 2010, and 2020, the degree of confidence is unusually high this year.

“Our analog seasons were all very active Atlantic hurricane seasons,” said Phil Klotzbach, senior research scientist in the Department of Atmospheric Science at CSU and lead author of the report. “This highlights the somewhat lower levels of uncertainty that exist with this outlook relative to our typical early April outlook.”

Cruise Ship Caribbean Storm
Cruise Ship Caribbean Storm (Photo Credit: Natasa Ivancev)

Nevertheless, the forecast prediction will be updated on June 11, July 9, and August 6 as the season progresses and models can be fine-tuned with additional current data.

Worth Reading: The 10 Roughest Seas in the World for Cruise Ships

Furthermore, additional agencies, including the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), will make their own predictions based on their individual forecast modeling and data analysis, which may differ from Colorado State University’s season prediction.

Cruise travelers with any voyages planned during hurricane season – including in late May and early December – should always stay tuned to weather forecasts and remain in close contact with their cruise line in case of updates and changes to their itinerary.

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