In the midst of rising Atlantic Ocean temperatures and the looming presence of El Nino, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts a near-normal hurricane season for the Atlantic in 2023.
These predictions, made by NOAA forecasters at the Climate Prediction Center – a division of the National Weather Service – anticipate a 40 percent likelihood of a near-normal season, with a 30 percent chance each for either an above-normal or below-normal season.
The Atlantic hurricane season, traditionally stretching from June 1 to November 30, will likely witness 12 to 17 named storms, with winds blowing at a minimum of 39 mph, according to NOAA’s estimates.
Within this range, five to nine storms are predicted to escalate into hurricanes, packing winds of 74 mph or more, and one to four of these could become major hurricanes of category 3, 4 or 5, with winds exceeding 111 mph. The confidence level of NOAA in these projections stands high at 70 percent.
Secretary of Commerce Gina M. Raimondo commended the efforts of the Commerce Department and NOAA in advancing the scientific and technological aspects of hurricane modeling.
“Thanks to the critical investments this year, NOAA will be able to deliver even more accurate forecasts, helping ensure communities have the information they need to prepare for and respond to the destructive economic and ecological impacts of Atlantic hurricanes,” said Raimondo.
NOAA’s outlook suggests that the upcoming hurricane season may be less active than recent ones, due to various influencing factors. The convergence of some of these factors may suppress storm development, while others may fuel it, which contributes to an overall forecast of a near-normal season.
Intriguingly, after the continual presence of La Nina for three hurricane seasons, NOAA scientists now anticipate a high potential for El Nino to develop in the upcoming summer.
While El Nino often suppresses Atlantic hurricane activity, its potential impact might be offset by favorable conditions inherent to the tropical Atlantic Basin.
Other factors that could play a role include warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, which provide the energy for storm development, and the potential for an above-normal west African monsoon, which contributes to the generation of some of the stronger and longer-lived Atlantic storms.
These conditions are part of the long-term variability in Atlantic atmospheric and oceanic conditions conducive to hurricane development. This state, known as the high-activity era for Atlantic hurricanes, has been responsible for more active Atlantic hurricane seasons since 1995.
NOAA Administrator Dr. Rick Spinrad emphasized the importance of NOAA’s data and expertise for decision-making during hurricanes, particularly in the context of a changing climate.
“This year we are operationalizing a new hurricane forecast model and extending the tropical cyclone outlook graphic from five to seven days, which will provide emergency managers and communities with more time to prepare for storms,” said Dr. Spinrad.
NOAA is gearing up to implement a suite of enhancements and improvements this summer, such as expanding the capacity of the agency’s operational supercomputing system by 20 percent. This advancement in computing capability will empower NOAA to improve and run more intricate forecast models, including significant model upgrades during this hurricane season.
Notably, the Hurricane Analysis and Forecast System (HAFS), jointly created by NOAA’s Atlantic Oceanographic & Meteorological Laboratory Hurricane Modeling and Prediction Program and NOAA’s National Weather Service Environmental Modeling Center, will become operational by late June. This model has demonstrated a 10-15 percent improvement in track forecasts over existing operational models based on retrospective analysis of tropical storms and hurricanes from the 2020-2022 seasons.
In addition, the Probabilistic Storm Surge model upgrade will advance storm surge forecasting for the contiguous U.S. and new forecasts for surge, tide and waves for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
Forecasters now have the ability to run the model for two storms simultaneously. This model provides forecasters with the likelihood, or probability, of various flooding scenarios including a near worst-case scenario to help communities prepare for all potential outcomes.
Over the last 10 years, flooding from tropical storm rainfall was the single deadliest hazard. To give communities more time to prepare, the Weather Prediction Center is extending the Excessive Rainfall Outlook an additional two days, now providing forecasts up to five days in advance. The outlook shows general areas at risk for flash flooding due to excessive rainfall.
“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.
“Visit ready.gov or listo.gov for readiness resources, and get real time emergency alerts by downloading the FEMA App. Actions taken today can save your life when disaster strikes. The time to prepare is now.”