GeoColor satellite image taken Friday and provided by NOAA, shows Hurricane...

GeoColor satellite image taken Friday and provided by NOAA, shows Hurricane Beryl over Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Credit: AP

Hurricane Beryl, which on July 2 became the earliest Category 5 storm ever recorded, is the first major storm of what the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicts will be an “above normal” Atlantic hurricane season.

The storm, which hit the Houston area Monday morning as a Category 1 and caused widespread damage in the Caribbean last week, is notable not only because of its strength, but also because of where and how early it developed, meteorologists say. 

NOAA forecasts an 85% chance of an “above normal” hurricane season with 17 to 25 named storms,  eight to 13 hurricanes and four to seven hurricanes of least a Category 3 level because of near-record warm ocean temperatures, the development of La Niña, a climate pattern in the Pacific Ocean that enhances hurricane formation in the Atlantic basin, and other factors typically favorable to storm formation.

But Beryl is a late August caliber storm — the kind almost never seen during early hurricane season, Rich Von Ohlen, a Newsday meteorologist, said.

Matthew Rosencrans, a meteorologist specializing in seasonal hurricane activity at the National Weather Service's Climate Prediction Center, told Newsday warmer ocean temperatures are the primary reason for Beryl's formation in the tropical Atlantic, where wind shear usually hinders storms' growth.

Currently, Rosencrans said, the water in the tropical Atlantic is about 2 degrees warmer than usual, a change which he attributes to a combination of climate change, last year's El Niño — when trade winds weaken and warm water is pushed toward the west coast of the Americas — and a warm phase the North Atlantic Ocean has been in since 1995.

Warmer ocean water does not mean more storms will form, but it does mean that more storms are likely to grow into major hurricanes, Rosencrans explained.

Kevin Reed, a professor at Stony Brook's School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences, also partly attributed what he described as North Atlantic sea surface temperatures being at a “near a historic high” to climate change.

Reed explained that his research, which includes running forecast models of past storms and removing components related to climate change from the equation, has shown that as sea surface temperature gets warmer, there are more extreme, higher category storms. 

“In a world with climate change, the storms are almost always wetter,” Reed explained.

When Beryl reached Category 5 status on July 2, it became the second Category 5 hurricane to occur in July. Hurricane Emily, which became the first Category 5 July hurricane with winds of 160 mph in 2005, formed two weeks later than Beryl, according to NOAA.

Von Ohlen and Rosencrans both note while nothing is guaranteed when predicting hurricanes more than a few days away, it appears NOAA's prediction of four to seven major hurricanes during the 2024 hurricane season is on pace to be proven accurate. 

“I am seeing nothing that would make me back off that prediction,” Rosencrans said.

Von Ohlen says Long Island could see some rain later in the week as the storm works its way up the United States.

While no hurricane's eye has hit Long Island since Hurricane Gloria in 1985, Long Island and the region sustained powerful, damaging hits from Superstorm Sandy in 2012, remnants of Hurricane Isaias in 2020 and Hurricane Ida in 2021.

Still, Von Ohlen says, an “above-normal” forecast should be taken seriously in all areas where a hurricane could hit.

“Long Islanders should be aware the probabilities of a general active season are higher across the board,” he said. “Stay ready and stay in touch with your forecast.”

Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV Credit: Newsday

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Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV Credit: Newsday

Summer tourism ... Shark sightings on LI . . . Dino-Mite Vintage . . . What's Up on Long Island . . . Get the latest news and more great videos at NewsdayTV

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