- The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration forecasts a 40 percent chance of a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season in 2023, with 12 to 17 named storms, 5 to 9 hurricanes, and 1 to 4 major hurricanes.
- El Nino’s potential formation may suppress hurricane activity, but favorable conditions in the tropical Atlantic Basin could offset its influence.
- The Climate Adaptation Center also predicts moderate hurricane season in Florida with 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 2 to 3 major hurricanes, citing warmer-than-usual water temperatures.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) released its forecast for the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season this week, reporting a 40 percent chance of a near-normal season, a 30 percent chance of an above-normal season, and a 30 percent chance of a below-normal season.
The forecast predicts 12 to 17 named storms with winds of 39 mph or higher. Of these, 5 to 9 could become hurricanes with winds of 74 mph or higher, and 1 to 4 could be major hurricanes with category 3, 4, or 5 strength and winds of 111 mph or higher. NOAA has expressed 70 percent confidence in these ranges.
According to the organization, a key factor influencing this year’s forecast is the potential development of the El Nino jetstream. After three hurricane seasons with La Nina conditions, NOAA scientists predict a high chance of El Nino’s formation, which typically suppresses Atlantic hurricane activity. However, favorable conditions in the tropical Atlantic Basin, such as an above-normal West African monsoon and warmer-than-normal sea surface temperatures, could offset the influence of El Nino.
Florida’s hurricane season, which runs between June 1 and November 30, has seen extreme storms in Hurricanes Ian and Irma across the preceding decade, resulting in a litany of preparedness measures adopted by the state legislature, including one awaiting the governor’s signature that bolsters preparedness measures in local communities following natural disasters.
“As we saw with Hurricane Ian, it only takes one hurricane to cause widespread devastation and upend lives. So regardless of the number of storms predicted this season, it is critical that everyone understand their risk and heed the warnings of state and local officials. Whether you live on the coast or further inland, hurricanes can cause serious impacts to everybody in their path,” said FEMA Administrator Deanne Criswell.
A secondary group, the Sarasota-based Climate Adaptation Center (CAC) echoes NOAA’s prediction of a moderate hurricane season, forecasting 14 named storms with at least 7 reaching hurricane status and a further 2 or 3 becoming major hurricanes.
CAC attributes the risk of major hurricane formations to warmer-than-usual temperatures in the waters surrounding Florida, stating that temperatures have already peaked at a level high enough to spawn tropical storms. Of named storms, CAC predicts several of the potentially major storms to show rapid intensification, with a focal point presenting itself between the June through August period.
“There is a warm loop current in the Gulf of Mexico that is already 4°C warmer than normal, and the same can be said for all Florida coastal areas, the Bahamas, and the Atlantic east of the Bahamas,” wrote Bob Bunting, CEO of CAC. “The entire hurricane formation area is mostly warmer than normal. Any storm traveling or forming over or traveling over the brown and red areas will get a big energy boost.”
The 2022 hurricane season featured 14 named storms, including hurricanes Ian and Nicole, the latter of which grew from a weak tropical storm to a 150 mph sustained large-scale hurricane in less than 48 hours. The 2022 season yielded more than $120 billion in damage and nearly 200 deaths.
The pair of forecasts come in poor timing for Florida’s insurance market, which is still reeling after the devastating economic and infrastructure toll brought upon by hurricanes Ian and Nicole. The National Insurance Crime Bureau (NICB) identified nearly half a million claims related to Hurricane Ian in the months after its landfall, with 471,581 homeowner claims, 272,465 business claims 272,465, and 151,892 automobile claims.
Estimates last year pegged Ian as the most significant natural disaster for the insurance sector in decades, with industry losses from the storm reaching as high as $75 billion.
Gov. Ron DeSantis caught attention during an April press conference in Fort Myers — where Hurricane Ian made a near-direct impact — in stating that the state-ran Citizens Property Insurance may not be solvent enough to pay out on filed claims following another major storm. An inquiry filed with the Office of Insurance Regulation was not answered.
“I think most people know Citizens has not been solvent,” he said. “If you did have a major hurricane hit with a lot of Citizens property holders, it would not have a lot to pay out.”
The tumultuous nature of the state’s property insurance market instills fears that another storm in 2023 could bring about drastically catastrophic economic trends in Florida. To mitigate the worst negative fiscal impacts, CAC emphasized the need to adapt and shift focus towards preventing the worst impacts and not just responding after the fact, including reformation of the way the state prepares for storms, a major overhaul of preexisting building codes, and expanded evacuation policies.