By Loshaun Dixon
As the hurricane season enters its peak, the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, a division of NOAA, has updated its prediction for the Atlantic hurricane season in 2023.
The most recent update has upgraded the initial forecast of near-normal activity to an expectation of above-normal activity. The current oceanic and atmospheric conditions, particularly the Atlantic’s historically high sea surface temperatures, are to blame for the forecast’s change. It is anticipated that these higher temperatures will cancel out the typically constrictive atmospheric conditions brought on by the ongoing El Niño phenomenon.
The probability of an above-normal Atlantic hurricane season has been increased from 30% in May to 60%, a significant increase. In contrast, the likelihood of near-normal activity has decreased from the 40% estimate given in the previous outlook to 25%. The probability of a below-average season is now 15%, according to the updated forecast.
The NOAA’s updated 2023 outlook predicts the possibility of 14 to 21 named storms (with wind speeds of 39 mph or higher) throughout the entire six-month hurricane season until November 30, of which 6 to 11 could intensify into hurricanes (with wind speeds of 74 mph or higher). Two to five storms could intensify into major hurricanes (with wind speeds of 111 mph or higher) within this range. These projections, which include storms that have already formed earlier in the season, have a 70% degree of confidence.
Five storms that intensified to tropical storm status and one hurricane were among the notable early developments of the ongoing Atlantic hurricane season. In contrast, an average hurricane season produces about 14 named storms, seven of which develop into hurricanes, including three major hurricanes.
According to NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center’s lead hurricane season forecaster, Matthew Rosencrans, the ongoing El Niño and the warm phase of the Atlantic Multi-Decadal Oscillation, particularly the unseasonably warm Atlantic sea surface, are the main climate factors influencing the activity of the Atlantic hurricanes in 2023. Due to these factors, the updated forecast predicts increased activity, which calls for proactive planning throughout the current season.
While current El Niño conditions are evident, the Climate Prediction Center’s latest ENSO discussion projects a greater than 95% likelihood of El Niño persisting through the Northern Hemisphere winter. Traditionally, El Niño generates atmospheric conditions that mitigate tropical activity during the Atlantic hurricane season. However, the emergence of these inhibiting conditions has been gradual, leading climate scientists to anticipate that the factors restricting tropical cyclone activity might not fully materialize for the remainder of the hurricane season.
Predictions of below-normal wind shear, slightly weaker Atlantic trade winds, and either a near- or above-normal West African Monsoon are additional factors in this revised seasonal forecast.