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Hurricane season starts: NOAA's 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Outlook

An El Niño is expected to drive the season's hurricane forecast

ATLANTA — NOAA released their 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season Thursday, calling for a 40% chance of a near-normal season. Forecasters predict 12-17 named storms, 5-9 hurricanes, and 1-4 major hurricanes. Although we may not see as many storms as in recent years, it only takes one significant storm to impact your community to make it a bad hurricane season.

Credit: WXIA

What will drive the seasonal outlook will heavily weigh on the prediction of the upcoming El Niño Southern Oscillation during the summer months and the abnormally warm waters of the tropical Atlantic. 

There is currently a 93% chance of an El Niño during the peak of hurricane season. When El Niño is present during hurricane season, it can create more vertical wind shear in the tropical Atlantic. This tears apart hurricanes as they try to form, and limit storm growth. Ultimately, the presence of El Niño can mean a less active hurricane season. The last three years, a La Niña has been present during the peak of hurricane season.

The other main variable in this season's hurricane outlook is the unseasonably warm ocean temperatures in the Atlantic. Not only are the surface of the ocean waters warm, but that warm water is deep as well. NOAA has been able to utilize recent technology upgrades to look at this total heat content available for storms to rapidly intensify, including satellite capabilities and observational capabilities, like underwater gliders and buoys. 

NOAA continues to expand its forecast capabilities with upgrades to its supercomputing system. This will improve its ability to produce more accurate hurricane forecasts. Late next month, its upgraded hurricane forecast model will become operational. They expect an increase in track accuracy by up to 15%. In addition, earlier this month there was an upgrade to its Probabilistic Storm Surge model. 

For the first time this season, the National Hurricane Center will now produce tropical weather outlooks 7 days in advance, showing areas for potential tropical development. This increases from 5 days in previous years. 

In the press conference, there was an underlying theme of building a more resilient coastline to the effects of climate change. The Biden Administration recommended $562 million in investments in the Bipartisan Infrastructure law and the Inflation Reduction Act.

Last year, there were 14 named storms. Two storms, Ian and Fiona, caused so much devastation that the names were retired.

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