New Atlantic hurricane season forecast hinges on strength of El Niño


El Niño watch issued by NOAA

Possible El Niño could mean more wet weather for California this year


The strength of the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season will be dependent on El Niño, a recurring climate pattern, scientists from Colorado State University said in a report released Thursday. 

The 43-page report forecasts hurricane activity and landfall strike probability in the Atlantic in 2023. Right now, the authors of the report “anticipate … slightly below-average activity,” but there is “considerable uncertainty as to how strong an El Niño would be.” The development of El Niño could result in more severe storms, but even if the pattern does not develop, scientists warned that above-average temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean means “the potential still exists for a busy Atlantic hurricane season.”  

Currently, researchers predict 13 named storms in the Atlantic region, including six hurricanes, two of which would be major.  

“As is the case with all hurricane seasons, coastal residents are reminded that it only takes one hurricane making landfall to make it an active season for them. They should prepare the same for every season, regardless of how much activity is predicted,” researchers said. 

The uncertainty surrounding El Niño is normal, researchers said. The latest official forecast from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration predicted a 61% chance of an El Niño developing. There’s a 4% chance of La Niña, a similar phenomenon, developing, NOAA said. 

According to NOAA, El Niño is a climate pattern formally called the El Niño-Southern Oscillation, or ENSO. El Niño is the warm phase of ENSO, defined by warmer-than-usual sea surface temperatures and above-average precipitation in parts of the Pacific Ocean. Those weather features then go on to influence weather and climate patterns in the United States and around the world. 

NOAA will issue another update on El Niño on May 11.

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