UPDATE, August 11: In a new hurricane season forecast released this week by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), the U.S. government's offical weather watchers increased the number of storms predicted to develop in the Atlantic Ocean in 2023.
After forecasting a "near-normal" Atlantic hurricane season back in May, the agency now expects an "above normal" level of activity, with 14 to 21 named storms (with winds of 39 mph or greater), of which 6 to 11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or greater). NOAA expects that 2 to 5 of those systems could become major hurricanes with winds of 111 mph or greater.
That's an increase of the agency's earlier forecast of 12 to 17 named storms, with 5 to 9 becoming hurricanes and 1 to 4 becoming major hurricanes.
The reason for the higher prediction? "Record-warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures," says NOAA, that "are likely to counterbalance the usually limiting atmospheric conditions associated with the ongoing El Niño event."
El Niño conditions usually result in winds that break up hurricanes as they try to form, but, as the Miami Herald explains, "hot water acts like fuel for hurricanes"—and Atlantic sea surface temperatures in June and July "were hotter than anything in recorded history."
NOAA reports that the Atlantic region has already endured five storms so far this hurricane season, which began June 1 and will last through November 30. Hurricane season typically peaks in late summer and early fall.
NOAA's revised forecast reinforces the predictions of other meteorologists, including the team from Colorado State University. They also now expect more hurricanes than initially anticipated, as described in the below post, originally published July 11.
This year's Atlantic hurricane season could turn out to be worse than initially expected, according to an updated forecast released by the well-regarded weather watchers at Colorado State University.
Back in spring, the university's team of scientists predicted a below-average season with 13 named storms, of which 6 were expected to grow into hurricanes.
The possibility of a robust El Niño weather pattern developing could "increase upper-level westerly winds across the Caribbean into the tropical Atlantic [Ocean]," CSU researchers explained at the time. "The increased upper-level winds result in vertical wind shear which can tear apart hurricanes as they try to form."
But in CSU's revised projection of early July—about a month into Atlantic hurricane season, which lasts from June 1 through November 30—forecasters now say that "record warm sea surface temperatures" in the region "may counteract" typical El Niño effects, resulting in a total of 18 named storms, with 9 hurricanes and 4 major hurricanes.
That would make 2023's level of hurricane activity above the historical average of 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes.
As the Miami Herald explains, the swath of the Atlantic where most storms develop "is hotter than it's ever been." That can lead to bigger, stronger hurricanes because "hot waters evaporate more easily," fueling monster storm systems.
CSU meteorologist Philip Klotzbach tweeted that there's still a high chance we'll get a robust El Niño by late summer and early fall, when hurricane season tends to peak. Otherwise, according to Klotzbach, CSU's forecast would predict "even more [hurricane] activity given [the] record warm Atlantic."Yikes.
#ElNino onset has occurred. Currently there are warm subsurface temperature anomalies & indications that future wind patterns should increase El Nino strength. High chance of a robust #ElNino is why CSU's hurricane forecast is not for even more activity given record warm Atlantic pic.twitter.com/R5PISTvRoB— Philip Klotzbach (@philklotzbach) July 6, 2023
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), for its part, so far hasn't revised its May projection for a "near-normal" 2023 Atlantic hurricane season of 12 to 17 named storms.
The government agency's next update for the later, usually busier part of hurricane season is expected in August.
Travelers headed to the Caribbean, the Gulf Coast, and the U.S. Atlantic Coastline during hurricane season are advised to visit Ready.gov for safety tips and other helpful resources.
Pictured at top: Palm trees in South Florida during 2019's Hurricane Dorian