NOAA updates forecast for hurricane season to ‘above normal’

NOAA updates forecast for hurricane season to ‘above normal’
16 August 2023

By the Climate Centre

The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) late last week updated its probabilistic forecast for the current Atlantic hurricane season from “near normal” to “above normal”.  

There is now a 60 per cent chance of an above-normal season, a 25 per cent chance for a near-normal season, and a 15 per cent chance for a below-normal season, which officially runs from 1 June to 30 November, the NOAA bulletin on Thursday said.

NOAA puts at 70 per cent the probability of up to 21 named storms, of which as many as five and at least two will be major hurricanes.

“Compared to the May outlook … the August update has shifted all of the likely ranges of overall activity to higher levels,” NOAA adds.

The US agency says “major sources of uncertainty are rooted in the interplay between the current El Niño [which would typically dampen hurricane activity] and the conditions local to the North Atlantic.”

It adds: “Predicting El Niño and La Niña events … and their impacts on North Atlantic basin hurricane activity, is an ongoing challenge facing scientists today.”

Pre-season conference

The NOAA outlook is described as “a general guide to the expected overall activity … not a seasonal hurricane landfall forecast, and it does not predict levels of activity for any particular location.”

Precise landfalls and tracks of hurricanes are “ultimately related to the daily weather patterns which determine storm genesis locations and steering patterns.”

The 2023 season could mark a return to above-normal activity following a near-normal 2022 season; the last consecutive near-normal seasons were 2006 and 2007.

Since the current era of high activity in the Atlantic began in 1995, nearly 70 per cent of all hurricane seasons have seen above-normal activity; and nearly half those above-normal years (or just over 30 per cent of the total) have been “hyper-active”, according to NOAA.

The IFRC in the Americas region hosted its pre-season conference in May, prioritizing “effective hurricane preparedness for the Red Cross Movement and its partners in the Americas”.

Following well-attended previous virtual conferences, the 2023 event was held online “with a special focus on the big impact caused by small and medium-scale emergencies”; National Societies in the Americas responded to a wide variety of disasters and crises during the 2022 hurricane season.

The Belize Red Cross hurricane preparedness meeting on 15 July for volunteers including its National Intervention Team. Their session looked at roles and responsibilities, and safety and security, and also highlighted areas of improvement based on lessons learnt from the 2022 season. (Photo: Belize Red Cross via IFRC)