National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasters have shared their expected outlook for the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season which runs from June 1 to November 30. According to forecasters, this year should be relatively subdued in comparison to recent years. They’re now calling for a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, a 30 percent chance of an above-normal season, and 30 percent chance of a below-normal season.
What exactly does that consist of?
“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),” the Administration wrote. “NOAA has a 70% confidence in these ranges.”
The past three hurricane seasons were driven by La Niña conditions, but that should end with NOAA scientists predicting a strong El Niño to develop this summer.
“Over the Atlantic basin, the amplified trough is associated with stronger upper-level westerly winds and stronger lower-level easterly trade winds, both of which increase the vertical wind shear and suppress hurricane activity,” they explain. “In addition to enhanced vertical wind shear, El Niño suppresses Atlantic hurricane activity by increasing the amount of sinking motion and increasing the atmospheric stability.”
But even with the expectations of a moderate season in relation to recent years, the administration also announced it will be upgrading its computing capabilities in order to run more complex forecast models. One upgrade includes giving forecasters the ability to run models for two storms at once, which they say gives them a greater understanding of possible flooding scenarios and even detailed worst case scenarios that can help communities prepare for all possible outcomes. They’ve also created another model planned to become its primary hurricane model, which will be operational in late June. Their analysis of the new model says it will offer a 10 to fifteen percent improvement in track forecasts.
“As we saw with Hurricane Ian, it only takes one hurricane to cause widespread devastation and upend lives. So regardless of the number of storms predicted this season, it is critical that everyone understand their risk and heed the warnings of state and local officials. Whether you live on the coast or further inland, hurricanes can cause serious impacts to everybody in their path,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.