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New preseason hurricane forecast is highest ever issued. Brace yourself, Florida

•, Alex Harris

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday released its forecast for the 2024 season, which starts June 1, calling for a more active than normal season — thanks in large part to the off-the-charts high temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean.

NOAA is predicting that 17 to 25 named storms could form this year, with eight to 13 powering up into hurricanes and four to seven of those reaching major hurricane status, Category 3 or higher. That's above the average: 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes. In fact, they're the highest ever forecast by the federal agency. In 2020, NOAA had predicted the highest number of storms of all time. That season wound up with 30 named storms, 14 of them growing into hurricanes.

This season — at least potentially — sets up to top that.

"That's the highest forecast that we've had," said Ken Graham, director of the National Weather Service. "It's reason to be concerned, of course, but not alarmed."

It's also the second-highest forecast the agency has ever made for accumulated cyclonic energy, a metric that takes into account the power and longevity of storms throughout the season. The only year that tops this was 2010. This year, NOAA predicts it could be 150% to 245% of normal.

"In past years when we've seen high ACE numbers, those have been the years with the strongest hurricanes," said Rick Spinrad, NOAA administrator.

Last year, NOAA called for 14 to 21 named storms, six to 11 hurricanes and two to five major hurricanes. The final numbers for 2023 were 20 named storms, seven of which became hurricanes and three that reached major hurricane strength. It was the fourth-most active season on record.

Several factors come together to bake up such an alarming forecast. Primary among them, experts said, is just how hot the ocean is expected to be this summer. The peak of hurricane season for Florida is August to October.