Insights

Summary of 2023 hurricane season

Posted 08/12/2023 – Quick takes

The New York Times recently commented on the 2023 hurricane season (see article here). The authors note that both the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific experienced an above-average number of storms, due to warmer than normal ocean temperatures likely caused by El Niño. This is also reflected in a recent report by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Please find a summary of both articles below:

 

The 2023 Atlantic hurricane season which formally ended on 30th November, experienced above-normal activity with 20 named storms, ranking fourth since 1950. The season included 20 named storms (surpassing the average of 14 named storms) with 7 hurricanes and 3 major hurricanes.

A total of 37 storms occurred in the Atlantic and Eastern Pacific, with 13 rapidly intensifying. In some cases, these windstorms jumped multiple hurricane categories in less than a day which is rather unusual. This made predictions for where these storms make land fall significantly more difficult.

The Atlantic had 20 storms, including three major hurricanes (Category 3 or higher), while the Eastern Pacific had 17 named storms, with eight becoming major hurricanes. The number of storms that rapidly intensified (increased by 58 mph or more in 24 hours) was above average in both basins.

Normally, El Niño suppresses Atlantic hurricanes and increases Eastern Pacific storm activity. However, the warmer waters in the Atlantic led to reduced wind shear which usually disrupts storms and prevents them from growing stronger.

Notable events included Hurricane Idalia in Florida causing $3bn in damages, a rare hurricane in California, and Hurricane Otis in which Mexico rapidly intensified, catching forecasters and residents off guard. Otis strengthened from a tropical storm to a Category 5 hurricane in less than 24 hours, resulting in at least 49 deaths and highlighted the increasing threat of rapidly intensifying storms near coastlines.

Alpha comment

The continuing trend of warmer oceans and its impact on the storm season needs to be monitored closely. Whilst above normal, the season’s activity fell within the NOAA predicted ranges published last August.  It is worth noting that NOAA had revised these ranges upwards during the year and we will keep this in mind going into 2024. Better data and continued modelling of storms should ultimately lead to more accurate forecasting.

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