NOAA's Climate Prediction Center (CPC) has revised its forecast for the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, and now forecasts an above-normal level of tropical cyclone activity. This change is attributed to unusually warm sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic, which offset the effects of the ongoing El Niño event in the Pacific.
The recent announcement marks an increase in the probability of an above-normal hurricane season, now estimated at 60%, compared to the previous 30% probability given in May. The updated outlook anticipates the formation of 14 to 21 named storms, of which 6 to 11 could become hurricanes. Among these, 2-5 could become major hurricanes with winds in excess of 111 mph.
"The main climate factors expected to influence the 2023 Atlantic hurricane activity are the ongoing El Niño and the warm phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation, including record-warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures," Matthew Rosencrans, the CPC's lead hurricane season forecaster, said in a news release. "Considering those factors, the updated outlook calls for more activity, so we urge everyone to prepare now for the continuing season."
This development closely tracks the Colorado State University Tropical Outlook, which was unchanged in July, anticipating 18 named storms, nine hurricanes and four major hurricanes. However, the researchers acknowledged greater uncertainty due to the unpredictability of global weather patterns.
El Niño's effect on Atlantic hurricane season
Despite a strengthening El Niño in the Pacific, which traditionally results in fewer tropical systems in the Atlantic, five named storms have already been recorded this year, including Hurricane Don. Unusually high water temperatures in the Atlantic, combined with the absence of the expected factors associated with El Niño, have led experts to speculate that the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season could exceed average levels of activity.
During conventional El Niño years, the Atlantic experiences reduced activity due to factors such as increased vertical wind shear and cooler water temperatures. These conditions, however, have not been observed in significant parts of the Atlantic this year.
The exceptional warmth of the Atlantic waters is highlighted by recent temperature measurements, such as the record reading of 101.1 degrees Fahrenheit at Manatee Bay in Everglades National Park. Record sea surface temperatures accompanied the warmest month globally in terms of air surface temperatures in July.
More about hurricane season outlooks
Since the Atlantic hurricane season runs from June to November, August, September, and October are considered peak months, responsible for more than 85% of the formation of the tropical system. Rising ocean temperatures during the summer, along with decreased Saharan dust and less hostile upper winds, contribute to favorable conditions. In particular, historic hurricanes like Andrew, Katrina, Harvey, and Camille emerged during August.
“The National Weather Service is dedicated to providing timely and accurate forecasts to empower individuals, families and communities to take proactive measures this hurricane season,” said Ken Graham, director of NOAA’s National Weather Service. “New tools such as a new hurricane model, the Hurricane Analysis and Forecast System and the expansion of the National Hurricane Center’s Tropical Weather Outlook to seven days are examples of our commitment to enhancing our forecasting capabilities and services.”
The 2023 season is progressing more than normal, with Hurricane Don forming in the North Atlantic nearly three weeks before the average first hurricane formation date of August 11.
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