NOAA predicts a near-normal 2023 Atlantic hurricane season
NOAA forecasters with the Climate Prediction Center, a division of the National Weather Service, predict near-normal hurricane activity in the Atlantic this year. NOAA’s outlook for the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, which goes from June 1 to November 30, predicts a 40% chance of a near-normal season, a 30% chance of an above-normal season and a 30% chance of a below-normal season.
NOAA is forecasting a range of 12 to 17 total named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher). Of those, 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA has a 70% confidence in these ranges.
A Developing El Niño
The first signal we’re watching isn’t in the Atlantic Ocean, but rather the waters near the equator in the Pacific Ocean.
During the past three hurricane seasons, these Pacific equatorial waters were cooler than average – a condition known as La Niña. But that long-lasting La Niña finally disappeared, and this patch of water is now warming toward its counterpart, El Niño.
As of mid-April, a large majority of forecast models suggested an El Niño is likely to develop, possibly as soon as this summer. NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center assigned a 61% chance that an El Niño will be in place by August through October, the heart of the Atlantic hurricane season.
The reason this strip of water far from the Atlantic Basin matters is that it’s one of the strongest influences on hurricane season activity.
In El Niño hurricane seasons, stronger shearing winds often occur over at least the Caribbean Sea and some adjacent parts of the Atlantic Basin. This tends to limit the number and intensity of storms and hurricanes, especially if the El Niño is stronger, as we investigated in a March article.
The AG2 forecast team also noted a tendency in El Niño hurricane seasons for fewer Gulf of Mexico storms and more storms to either curl north, then northeast out into the open Atlantic Ocean or to impact parts of the East Coast.
That’s because the Bermuda high tends to be weaker, and it’s also due to a more persistent dip in the upper-level winds in the southeastern U.S. during El Niños, according to AG2.
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