ORLANDO, Fla. – With La Niña conditions officially gone after a three-year run, forecasters believe El Niño is set to return.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration released its predictions for the upcoming hurricane season, forecasting a “near normal” season and with 12-17 named storms in 2023. Of those, five to nine could be hurricanes and one to four of those could become major hurricanes, reaching Category 3 intensity or greater.
Dr. Phil Klotzbach with Colorado State University said the big reason behind predicting fewer storms than last year is because of the anticipated El Niño.
“Now, when you have El Niño — that is warmer-than-normal water in the center on eastern tropical Pacific Ocean — when that occurs, it tends to increase winds high up in the atmosphere 20,000, 30,000 feet that tear apart hurricanes as they’re trying to develop and intensify. So in general, when it comes to hurricanes, El Niño is our friend, it generally increases the (wind) shear and tends to tamp down the season,” Klotzbach said.
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However, the temperature is above average in the Atlantic, which gives hurricanes better conditions to develop.
“Potentially we could have a moderate to even strong El Niño this summer and fall. Normally, if that’s the case, you forecast a really, really below-average season. But given how warm the Atlantic is, you know, that’s not for sure if the Atlantic stays on track to be this warm and we have only maybe a weak El Niño, then perhaps (it) could still be a pretty busy season. So there’s just a lot of uncertainty associated with this hurricane season at this point,” he said.
And while El Niño tends to bring a less busy season, Floridians are still urged to remember it only takes one storm — like Hurricane Ian last year.
Ian was a large and powerful Category 4 hurricane that brought devastating impacts to Southwest Florida. Significant impacts were also felt well inland, with extreme flooding, including along the St. Johns River. Ian was responsible for 150 direct and indirect deaths and over $112 billion in damage in the U.S.
Klotzbach said Floridians in the mid-2010s had “hurricane amnesia” when Florida had no landfalling hurricanes from 2006 to 2015.
“Obviously, when you’ve had this generational kind of storm, especially in southwest Florida, you want to be prepared for the upcoming season. But, you know, that was a horrible storm,” he said. “It’s not to say, you know, another one of those is going to be coming around anytime soon. It could potentially come around, but, you know, basically, you want to be prepared the same for every hurricane season and not just say, use what happened last year as your guide, basically just be prepared the same for every season.”
Hurricane season begins June 1 and runs through Nov. 30.
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