“Near normal” hurricane season this year

Good news, bad news.

Texas and the rest of the Gulf and East coasts are most likely to see a “near-normal” hurricane season this year, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

Federal forecasters are predicting between 12 and 17 named storms will form this season, the agency announced Thursday. One to four of those storms could be hurricanes rated Category 3 or higher, meaning they will have wind speeds of at least 111 miles per hour.

NOAA defines an average Atlantic hurricane season as one with 14 named storms, of which three are those stronger hurricanes.


Hurricanes are more likely to be stronger and rains more likely to be heavier because of climate change. It’s also possible that more hurricanes will continue to get stronger over a short time close to landfall.

“The risks of these storms are different than the risks that [communities] faced 10 years ago,” Federal Emergency Management Agency Administrator Deanne Criswell said at the news conference.

Texas is of course vulnerable to the impacts of storms, made worse by rising sea levels. A $31 billion plan that includes blocking off the mouth of the Houston Ship Channel with giant gates ahead of storms is far from fruition, if it happens at all.

I mean, could be worse, and indeed has been in recent years. But don’t get complacent.

“Remember it only takes one storm to devastate a community,” says Rick Spinrad, who leads NOAA. “It’s time to prepare.”


There is also extra uncertainty about what this year will hold because of the strange confluence of conditions in the Atlantic.

On one hand, the climate pattern El Niño will almost certainly take hold in the coming months, and persist through peak hurricane season in the late summer and early fall. That will create wind conditions that disrupt hurricanes.

But the ocean water in the area where hurricanes form is abnormally warm right now, and is expected to stay that way throughout hurricane season, which runs through November. That’s part of a global trend of rising ocean temperatures due to climate change, although scientists are still trying to understand what is driving this year’s record-breaking ocean heat.

What is clear is that warmer water helps hurricanes form.

So, will the 2023 conditions be bad for hurricanes overall, or good? Forecasters say it’s a little unclear.

“It’s definitely kind of a rare setup for this year,” says Matthew Rosencrans, lead hurricane season forecaster with NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center. He says his team of forecasters are extremely experienced when it comes to predicting what will happen during hurricane season, but that there is almost no historical precedent for this year. “When we looked at it we were definitely, like, ‘Wow, there’s a lot of uncertainty this year.'”

Prepare for the coast to get hit, and hope for the best. That advice will continue to be operative for the long term.

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