Moody’s Risk Management Services (RMS) highlighted that this year’s hurricane forecasts are experiencing heightened uncertainty, attributed to various factors influencing the predictions.
The forecasts take into account crucial oceanic and climate factors that have historically impacted hurricane activity in the region, namely the El Niño-Southern Oscillation (ENSO) and North Atlantic sea surface temperatures.
As the 2023 North Atlantic hurricane season commences on June 1, forecasting agencies and groups have issued their seasonal outlooks, offering a glimpse into the anticipated level of activity for the upcoming months.
The U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) forecasts 12-17 named storms, with 5-9 expected to become hurricanes, including 1-4 major hurricanes of Category 3 strength or higher.
While NOAA expresses a 70 percent confidence in these ranges, other meteorological forecast agencies and groups broadly concur with the near-normal outlook.
El Niño conditions typically introduce stronger vertical wind shear across the North Atlantic, inhibiting hurricane development and intensification. However, sea surface temperatures in the tropical North Atlantic are projected to remain above average throughout the season, typically fostering increased hurricane activity.
These conflicting factors, with some suppressing storm development and others fueling it, contribute to NOAA’s overall forecast for a near-normal season. There remains a possibility that the season could deviate from this expectation if one factor exerts a greater influence.
Should the current forecasts prove accurate, 2023 would mark a second consecutive near-normal season. However, it is important to note that these outlooks solely offer guidance on the overall activity in the North Atlantic and do not indicate the number of storms likely to threaten or make landfall.
While statistics suggest that more active seasons correlate with an increased probability of hurricanes reaching U.S. shores, notable exceptions exist.
In 2010, despite high activity, only one tropical storm made landfall in the U.S. Conversely, the quiet 1992 season saw Hurricane Andrew, one of the most intense and costly hurricanes in U.S. history.