Aug 10, 2023 - Climate

Hurricane season is about to ramp up, forecasters say

A satellite image of a white spiral-shaped storm surrounded by blue.

A satellite image of Hurricane Don, the first hurricane of the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season. Photo: NOAA

Floridians can expect above-average hurricane activity in the latter — and busier — half of the season, forecasters with the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration said Thursday.

Why it matters: With some Floridians still recovering from Hurricane Ian and the state's property insurance market in disarray, another busy storm season doesn't fare well for the Sunshine State.

What they're saying: "We urge you to prepare now for the upcoming core of the hurricane season, as a single storm can have catastrophic impacts," said Matthew Rosencrans of NOAA's Climate Prediction Center, during a call with reporters.

How it works: We're in an El Niño year, which usually makes for a more laid-back hurricane season. However, the effects are emerging later than expected, Rosencrans said, and record-high ocean temperatures are hurricane fuel.

By the numbers: The likelihood of an above-average season jumped from 30% in May to 60% heading into the peak months in which 90% of tropical activity occurs, Rosencrans said.

  • That means NOAA is expecting 14 to 21 named storms and six to 11 hurricanes, two to five of which will be major.
  • Five named storms have developed already this season, Rosencrans said.
  • A normal season produces 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major ones.

Yes, but: While this year's sea-surface temperatures are unusually high, the projected number of storms is in line with recent years.

  • Last year there were 14 named storms, 21 in 2021 and 30 in 2020.

The intrigue: The closest analog to this year's projected season is 2004, Rosencrans said. That year, four back-to-back hurricanes ravaged Florida, including Hurricane Charley, which was on track to hit Tampa Bay dead-on before it turned south at the last minute.

Be smart: Storm surge has long been the deadliest threat associated with hurricanes, but new research from the National Hurricane Center found that rainfall from flooding accounted for almost 60% of U.S. hurricane deaths.

  • Every weather event is different, though. Surge remained the biggest killer during Hurricane Ian. Of the 66 deaths attributed to Ian, 41 were due to storm surge in Florida.
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