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As many as 25 hurricanes are expected to form between June 1 and Nov. 30


This year's hurricane season is shaping up to be - and I don't know any other way to say this - a doozy. Rick Spinrad runs the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, or NOAA.


RICK SPINRAD: NOAA is predicting an above-average 2024 Atlantic hurricane season.

MARTIN: Forecasters have announced a record-breaking outlook for the season, which starts June 1 and runs through November. We're talking about 17 to 25 storms. Rebecca Hersher is from NPR's climate desk, and she's here to tell us more about this. Good morning.


MARTIN: So what does a normal hurricane season look like, and what are we looking at for this year?

HERSHER: So in a normal year, there are 14 storms total. So predicting at least 17 is a lot. This is the largest number ever predicted by federal forecasters. And they're expecting about half of those storms will be full-blown hurricanes, you know, as opposed to weaker tropical storms. And at least four will be major hurricanes. So that's Category 3, 4 or 5. Storms like that have winds powerful enough to at least uproot trees, destroy mobile homes, damage other buildings, and they can knock out electricity for many days or even weeks. So it's a really serious forecast.

MARTIN: Why so many?

HERSHER: Well, there are a couple of reasons, a perfect storm of hurricane conditions, if you will. First, there's the wind situation. So when hurricanes form in the Atlantic, if there's a lot of vertical wind - you might have heard the term wind shear - then it can tear the storm apart. So last year, there was a lot of wind shear, and it helped keep the number of storms average. This year, forecasters aren't expecting that kind of wind in the Atlantic, so storms will be able to form more easily. The other big reason the hurricane forecast is so bonkers this year is that the ocean water in the Atlantic is way warmer than it usually is this time of year.

MARTIN: Yes. You know, we've been covering, like, off-the-charts warmth in the Atlantic for months, and we've heard about coral bleaching and disruptions to fisheries. But - so say - could you just say more about how does water temperature factor in with hurricanes?

HERSHER: Yeah, exactly. So we've been hearing about it and all that warmth, it's in the exact part of the Atlantic where hurricanes are born. And that heat is energy for storms. It helps them go from these little tropical depressions to big, powerful rainy hurricanes. And I should say that abnormal heat in the Atlantic, that is mostly because of climate change. The oceans have soaked up the vast majority of the extra heat that's trapped here on Earth because of humans burning fossil fuels.

MARTIN: We have seen a number of catastrophic hurricanes in the U.S. in recent years. Anybody who lives in the zone will certainly remember this. So is there something that people can do to prepare for another potentially dangerous hurricane season?

HERSHER: Yes; make a plan now. Emergency managers really, really stress this. Do not wait until there's a storm headed your way to figure out where you would evacuate to, or how you would get there, what you would do with your pets, how you would get your medications. In some cases, public safety officials might recommend that people shelter in place. Make a plan for that. Do you have a generator? Make sure it's set up correctly. Generators can be life-saving, especially if you have a device that requires electricity. But they can also be deadly if they vent into indoor spaces. So good plans are all about the personal details, and they can't happen last minute.

MARTIN: That is NPR's Rebecca Hersher. Rebecca, thank you so much.

HERSHER: Thanks. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Rebecca Hersher (she/her) is a reporter on NPR's Science Desk, where she reports on outbreaks, natural disasters, and environmental and health research. Since coming to NPR in 2011, she has covered the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, embedded with the Afghan army after the American combat mission ended, and reported on floods and hurricanes in the U.S. She's also reported on research about puppies. Before her work on the Science Desk, she was a producer for NPR's Weekend All Things Considered in Los Angeles.
Michel Martin is the weekend host of All Things Considered, where she draws on her deep reporting and interviewing experience to dig in to the week's news. Outside the studio, she has also hosted "Michel Martin: Going There," an ambitious live event series in collaboration with Member Stations.