The 2022 hurricane season, which commenced belatedly, closed out a triad of highly active hurricane seasons, in part owing to a La Niña weather pattern. In Florida, Hurricane Ian led to significant destruction in the southwest region in September, thanks to its Category 5 winds and storm surge.
The 2023 hurricane season has started from June 1 and concludes in November. Experts predict a strong probability that El Niño, the warmer counterpart to La Niña, will dominate this year’s hurricane season with its hotter tropical Pacific sea surface temperatures.
Despite every year offering some anomalies, forecasters from the Climate Prediction Center suggest a 40 percent chance of a regular 2023 Atlantic hurricane season. Conditions could favor a somewhat more active Eastern Pacific hurricane season.
What is considered as “almost normal” for a hurricane prediction? NOAA predicts 12 to 17 named Atlantic storms, out of which five to nine could become hurricanes. Among these, one to four could develop into category 3 or higher storms with winds exceeding 111 mph.
The return to normal activity is expected due to the warmer Pacific temperatures that can inhibit activity in the Atlantic. However, additional elements, such as west African monsoons and long-term shifts in oceanic and atmospheric conditions, could contribute to a potentially more active 2023 Atlantic hurricane season.
In any case, NOAA’s hurricane center has prepared a list of 21 tropical cyclone names for the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, and only the first, Arlene, has been used for a tropical storm near Florida from June 1 to 3.
In addition to advancements in early warning capability for severe storms, the National Hurricane Center has refined its storm surge models to more accurately predict extreme flooding.
Become familiar with the basics of the hurricane season and what to anticipate over the following months, and also how to get prepared.
What Constitutes a Hurricane?
A hurricane is a form of tropical cyclone, a type of storm originating over subtropical or tropical waters. The wind speeds of a tropical cyclone determine whether it is classified as a hurricane, a tropical storm, or a tropical depression.
A tropical cyclone must have continuous wind speeds of at least 74 mph to be referred to as a hurricane. Storms with continuous wind speeds between 39 and 73 mph are classified as tropical storms, while those with continuous wind speeds under 39 mph are named tropical depressions.
Tropical cyclones with wind speeds above 73 mph are further grouped into five categories based on the following brackets:
- Category 1: continuous winds of 74 to 95 mph
- Category 2: continuous winds of 96 to 110 mph
- Category 3: continuous winds of 111 to 129 mph
- Category 4: continuous winds of 130 to 156 mph
- Category 5: continuous winds of 157 mph or higher
What conditions are essential for a hurricane to develop? Three core conditions must coexist for a hurricane to develop: heat, water, and low wind shear. Hurricanes form in the region just north of the equator.
Warm air over the ocean ascends, and cooler air replaces it, creating an area of low pressure. As this process persists, air swirls begin to form. The warm air cools as it rises and condenses, forming clouds. This process continues to recur, generating an enlarging and spinning system.
Low wind shear is also crucial for a hurricane to form. Wind shear is a change in wind speed and/or direction over a relatively small distance in higher levels of the atmosphere.
Where strong wind shear is present, hurricanes cannot form or strengthen. However, when wind shear levels are low, as is often the case over warmer tropical waters, a hurricane can continue to develop and strengthen.
Due to the Earth’s rotation, tropical cyclones in the Northern Hemisphere rotate anticlockwise, while those in the Southern Hemisphere rotate clockwise. North of the equator, these storms are called hurricanes, while south of the equator, they’re termed cyclones.
The Atlantic Hurricane Season Runs from June Through November
The Atlantic hurricane season formally spans from June 1 to Nov. 30, although hurricanes can form outside of this window. While this is uncommon, hurricanes in the Atlantic have been reported as early as January and as late as December.
Given the unpredictability of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season, computer models diverge, and the U.K.’s meteorological office has forecast an extraordinarily active season in the Atlantic. However, as of June 13, there was no tropical cyclone activity observed or forecast for the coming days.
That’s not unusual; historical data from the Weather Channel places July 27 as the average date of the first Atlantic hurricane. This is merely an average; the first hurricane can form before or after this date, as was the case with the 2022 season.
Atlantic hurricanes may form in waters anywhere between the central Atlantic Ocean and the Gulf of Mexico. This implies that they affect various regions surrounding the Atlantic Ocean or Gulf of Mexico, including the Caribbean, Central America, the East Coast of the United States, the Gulf Coast of the United States, and eastern Canada.
The Eastern Pacific Hurricane Season Extends from May Through November
When does the eastern pacific hurricane season conclude and when does it commence? The eastern pacific hurricane season starts in may, several weeks prior to the Atlantic hurricane season.
The official commencement of the eastern pacific hurricane season is may 15, and the season doesn’t conclude until nov. 30. similar to the Atlantic hurricane season, it’s entirely possible to observe hurricanes forming outside of these dates.
For 2023, NOAA predicts a busier season than normal in the Eastern Pacific, with as many as eight major hurricanes. As of June 13, no storms had formed or were developing. Most of the region’s hurricanes form off the coast of central Mexico, where the water is warm.
However, due to the easterly winds and the colder water temperatures found in the Pacific Ocean near the coast, Pacific hurricanes usually head toward Asia rather than the West Coast of the United States.
The Most Active Hurricane Season for Both U.S. Coasts Is Between August and October
While the hurricane season starts in May or June and doesn’t officially conclude until the final day of November, hurricanes in the Atlantic and Pacific are most likely to form between August and October.
In most years, 90 percent of hurricanes will form during these three months, with Sept. 10 signifying the statistical peak of the season.
While the period between August and October represents the peak of hurricane season, this does not mean that hurricanes that occur outside of these months will be less intense or severe. Strong storms can develop at any point during hurricane season, so it’s important to be always ready.
Education Is the Best Preparation for Hurricanes
Whether you reside in a hurricane-prone area or are planning to move to or visit such a region, it is vital to understand what hurricanes are, the duration of hurricane season, the NOAA hurricane forecast, and relevant terminology.
Enhancing your understanding of these topics will assist you in making preparations and decisions that will keep you and your loved ones safe from the destruction left by hurricanes.
Keep yourself updated with NOAA weather forecasts and predictions for your area, and always follow the advice of meteorologists and local officials regarding warnings and evacuations. Start formulating a plan now, and take measures to get ready for hurricane season.