Hurricane Season Outlook: How Many Are Expected, And How Many Could Cause Major Damage

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The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued their hurricane forecast for the 2023 season on Thursday, giving an idea of what people may be able to expect in terms of severe storms.

The NOAA is calling for a "near-normal" season in the Atlantic — and while an "average" forecast might not raise many eyebrows, this year, it should.

The scientific agency predicted there could be 12-17 named storms, 5-9 potential hurricanes and 1-4 major storms.

"The stronger an El Nino, usually the less amount of storms you have, but we are also in an active era. And having a strong El Nino with an active era, and such warm SSTs [sea surface temperatures] — I’ve only seen it one other time in the historical record, there’s not a lot of analog evidence for it," said NOAA's Matthew Rosencrans.

So what does all that mean? After three straight La Nina seasons (when surface ocean temperatures in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific cool down), NOAA is calling for an El Nino in 2023. That means warmer than usual Pacific water temperatures near the Equator.

But why does the temperature in the Pacific matter for storms in the Atlantic? Because it’s all connected.

Warmer waters in the Pacific lead to stronger so-called "shearing" winds in the Caribbean. Those winds can tear apart hurricanes before they develop, or at the very least keep them from intensifying.

However, there are also warmer sea surface temperatures in the Atlantic, which provide fuel for hurricanes, helping them develop and gain strength.

The two factors could essentially cancel each other out.

"It’s definitely kind of a rare set up, for this year. That’s why our probabilities are not 60 or 70 percent, they are a little bit to reflect that uncertainty," said Rosencrans. "We have a couple hundred years' experience doing tropical analysis with the team, and when we looked at it, we were like wow, there’s a lot of uncertainty this year."

Of course, the number of storms is only part of the story: where they go is the even more important. It's been a couple of very destructive seasons the last few years, including just last year with hurricanes Ian and Fiona. So here's hoping that whatever storms do develop stay out at sea.

June 1 marks the official start of the hurricane season, which runs through November 30. NOAA's updated predictions will be issued in August, before the peak of hurricane season.

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