Georgia has not had a major hurricane make landfall on its coast in more than 120 years, but several storms have caused severe damage in the state after coming onshore elsewhere. In 2018, Hurricane Michael made landfall on the Florida Panhandle, but maintained its major hurricane status as it pushed into south Georgia, causing billions of dollars in property damage and crop losses.
While the new NOAA forecast did not include site-specific forecasts for hurricane impacts, the Colorado State projections found a 46% chance that at least one hurricane will come near Georgia this season, and a 10% chance that a major hurricane will approach. Both probabilities are considered above average.
NOAA officials said that several factors are driving the forecast for an above-average season, including the continued presence of La Niña conditions. The presence of La Niña tends to reduce wind shear over the Caribbean, making it easier for storms to develop and strengthen.
Warmer than normal sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea are also likely to fuel storm development, NOAA said.
At the same time, climate change is increasing the destructive potential of storms, scientists say. Global sea levels have risen by between eight and nine inches since 1880, allowing damaging storm surge to reach further inland. Warmer temperatures in the atmosphere also allow storms to hold more water and dump rain at increased rates, raising the risk of flooding.
A major scientific assessment released last year by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also found that if humans continue to accelerate global warming by emitting greenhouse gases, it is likely that more storms will reach major hurricane status.