2018 09 17 Hurricane

Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast 2023

The 2022 hurricane season ended with a total of 14 named storms, 8 of which became hurricanes and 2 that became intense hurricanes. That total was fewer than had been predicted, based on the continuing La Niña and what appeared to be a generally favorable environment prior to the start of the season.

The 2022 season taught everyone that there is still much to be learned concerning the long-range prediction of seasonal hurricane activity. Although we predicted too many named storms last season, we did correctly predict the two prime areas to be significantly impacted – the southeast U.S. (Ian and Nicole struck Florida) and the northeast Caribbean (Fiona struck Puerto Rico).

The Atlantic Hurricane Season Risk Map above shows risk areas for impact and the predicted number of storms.

El Niño/La Niña

Although the cool La Niña has dominated the past three seasons, there are strong signs that El Niño will develop over summer.  During an El Niño, the tropical waters of the central and East Pacific warm to 0.5C or greater above normal.  The warm water there generates more rising air and more hurricanes.  This typically results in sinking air and fewer hurricanes in the Tropical Atlantic. El Niño seasons also tend to end earlier, with fewer storms in October and November.  The April forecast was for an 82% chance of an El Niño this season, and that does appear likely.  However, there are serious questions as to the eventual strength of the coming El Niño. A weaker El Niño would have less of an impact on Atlantic Basin activity

Atlantic Water Temperatures 

Water temperatures across the Atlantic Basin are now above normal.  In some ways, the current warm water anomaly matches the patterns of some active hurricane seasons of the past. The much above-normal water temperature of the water in the far eastern Atlantic may signal a weaker Bermuda high pressure system this summer.  Weaker high pressure may allow for hurricanes to form farther east in the basin, increasing the chances of hurricanes tracking northward, well east of the east Caribbean islands. This reduces the risk of significant hurricane activity affecting the islands of the eastern Caribbean.

Analog Seasons

An analog season is a season in the past with a similar setup of ocean temperatures and atmospheric flow patterns to what we are seeing at present.  The thinking is that if the current state of the tropics closely matches that of a year in the past, then seasonal activity this season could be somewhat similar to the activity in the analog season in terms of numbers and tracks.  For the 2023 season, we have identified 7 analog seasons – 1951, 1953, 1958, 2002, 2004, 2006, and 2009. Together, these seasons averaged a total of 12 named storms with 7 hurricanes and 3 intense hurricanes.  That’s very close to the 30-year climatological average.  The most impactful of the analog seasons was 2004, with 15 named storms, 9 hurricanes and 6 intense hurricanes.  Florida was hit by 4 hurricanes in 2004, including Charley, Frances, Ivan, and Jeanne.  If we were to pick one area that might be at higher risk of a hurricane impact this season based on impacts in Analog years, then we would say south Florida through the Bahamas.

May Forecasts

The signals have definitely become mixed over the past month. Though the models are forecasting a stronger El Niño, we are doubting that a strong El Niño will materialize due to the persistent cool phase of the Pacific Decadal Oscillation.  In addition, the water temperature anomaly pattern across the Atlantic matches the patterns of some active seasons of the past.

For 2023, we are predicting a total of 15 named storms, which is slightly above the 30-year average.  We are forecasting 7 hurricanes, including 3 intense hurricanes, each of which matches the 30-year average. The place to watch for a greater risk of a hurricane impact may be south Florida through the northern Bahamas.  In contrast, the Texas coast south through Mexico may be at a lower risk this season.

Download Atlantic Hurricane Season Outlook PDF >

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