We’ve got a storm coming, maybe. The rest of the 2023 hurricane season will be busier than previously thought, according to new projections from the National Ocean and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
Ocean temperatures and overall air temperatures have been alarmingly high this year, prompting NOAA to increase the number of potential storms from its earlier, near-normal prediction. This May, the agency forecast that there was only a 30% chance of an above-active season. This meant that the Atlantic was supposed to expect anywhere from 12 to 17 named storms, 5 to 9 minor hurricanes, and only up to 4 major hurricanes. And now this season can expect “14-21 named storms (winds of 39 mph or greater), of which 6-11 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or greater),” NOAA’s announcement said.
Hurricane season lasts from June 1 to November 30 and peaks in the late summer into early autumn. Last year saw a destructive hurricane season. Mid-September’s Hurricane Fiona shut down power throughout all of Puerto Rico, wreaked havoc over Florida and up the East Coast. The storm traveled up as far Canada’s Atlantic coast, causing power outages and flooding the area. But last year was a La Niña year.
The colder upwelling in the Pacific Ocean during those years brings together the right ingredients to fuel more hurricanes. The polar jet stream moves closer to the U.S. and creates warmer, dryer conditions throughout the southern part of the country. That means more numerous and stronger hurricanes. 2020 was likewise a La Niña year. The world ran through its list of hurricane names so quickly that authorities had to start using Greek letters for names.
But La Niña left us earlier this year, and this spring has come with strong El Niño formation conditions. During this time, the cold upwelling in the Pacific ocean slows down and even stops, shifting global weather patterns. During this time, the Atlantic hurricane season slows down, and the Gulf Coast and the Pacific Ocean tend to experience more storms.
However, this year’s elevated ocean temperatures, and the climate crisis could push back on El Niño conditions. “Forecasters believe that current ocean and atmospheric conditions, such as record-warm Atlantic sea surface temperatures, are likely to counterbalance the usually limiting atmospheric conditions associated with the ongoing El Nino event,” NOAA explained in its statement.
We’ll have to wait and see how storms form going forward, especially because the season has been relatively tame so far.
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