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The Atlantic hurricane season runs through November 2023. With record-warm sea surface temperatures, experts expect average to above-average activity. See the hurricane forecast, including how many storms are expected to make landfall. Plus, we answer your questions about Earth’s most powerful storms.
When is Hurricane Season
The Atlantic hurricane season officially starts on June 1 and ends on November 30, though hurricanes can occur outside of the season. (In the Northeast Pacific, the season starts earlier, on 15 May.) The forecasts below cover the Atlantic Basin, encompassing the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.
When it comes to hurricanes, many indicators related to atmospheric and oceanic conditions indicate what to expect. Keep in mind: Whatever the forecast, remember that it only takes one hurricane to make landfall, and coastal residents should prepare for every hurricane season.
In The 2023 Old Farmer’s Almanac, our long-range weather predictions for the year highlight when hurricanes are more likely to be active in different regions; we don’t, however, issue specific hurricane forecasts. Therefore, we have provided easy-to-read summaries by the foremost hurricane experts at NOAA and Colorado State University (CSU) with links to their full reports.
In 2023, NOAA and CSU predict a near-normal Atlantic hurricane season; however, abnormally warm sea surface temperatures counteracting the coming El Niño make for a challenging forecast. Learn more.
NOAA Hurricane Prediction
On May 25, NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center released its outlook for the 2023 hurricane season in the Atlantic is “near-normal hurricane activity.” Specifically, NOAA predicts a 40% chance of a near-normal season, a 30% chance of an above-normal season, and a 30% chance of a below-normal season.
This prediction is based on two competing factors: a robust El Niño during the core hurricane season versus above-average ocean temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean.
An El Niño increases vertical wind shear, which means the tops of developing storms are cut off before they can fully form; this produces winds that can suppress hurricane activity in the Atlantic basin.
However, very warm waters tend to fuel storms and favor hurricane formation.
NOAA is forecasting a range of 12 to 17 total named storms (winds of 39 mph or higher). Of those, 5 to 9 could become hurricanes (winds of 74 mph or higher), including 1 to 4 major hurricanes (category 3, 4 or 5; with winds of 111 mph or higher). NOAA has a 70% confidence in these ranges.
CSU 2023 Hurricane Prediction
As of August 3, the CSU experts forecast an above-average hurricane activity. This is consistent with their July update. Note that their June 1 forecast was near-average (similar to the NOAA forecast back in May 25).
The updated forecast reflects two contradictory factors:
A robust El Niño has developed this summer, which would suppress hurricane activity by increasing vertical wind cheer.
There are now record-level ocean temperatures in the tropical and subtropical Atlantic. The extreme anomalous warmth should counteract some of the typical El Niño-driven increase.
These contradicting factors need to play out. The big question is how robust the El Niño’s wind strength will be, as well as how extreme the ocean temperatures will be (to counteract the typical El Niño-driven increase in vertical wind shear.)
The other big question is whether the hurricanes will hit Florida and other coastal areas.The probability of U.S. major hurricane landfall is estimated to be above-average. 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.
Last Season’s (2022) Hurricane Forecast
In total, the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season produced 14 named storms, with winds of 63 kmh (39 mph) or greater, of which eight became hurricanes, with winds of 119 kmh (74 mph) or greater. Two intensified to major hurricanes – Fiona and Ian - with winds of more than 178 kmh (111 mph), according to the end-of-season tally from the US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).
An average Atlantic hurricane season has 14 named storms, seven hurricanes, and three major hurricanes. The 2022 season was quieter than 2020 and 2021, which were both so active that the regular list of rotating names was exhausted. But it takes just one landfalling storm to wreck communities and economies.
How Many Deaths Did Hurricane Ian Cause?
The season’s most significant continental US storm was Hurricane Ian, which made landfall in southwest Florida as a Category 4 hurricane, bringing tremendous wind and storm surge damage to southwest Florida as well as significant flooding to large swaths of the state. In the U.S, Ian caused at least 156 deaths, 66 of which were directly caused by the storm. Learn more about Hurricane Ian.
What Are the 2023 Hurricane Names
See the list of 2023 hurricane names for both the Atlantic Basin and Eastern North-Pacific. The World Meteorological Organization’s Hurricane Committee chooses these names. The list actually repeats every six years unless a storm is so severe that the World Meteorological Organization votes to retire that name from future lists.
A. A hurricane is a tropical storm with winds that have reached a constant speed of at least 74 mph in the North Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, or Gulf of Mexico. A hurricane’s winds blow in a large spiral around a relatively calm center of extremely low pressure known as the eye of the storm. Around the rim of the eye, winds may gust to more than 200 mph. The eye of a storm is usually 20 to 30 miles wide and may extend over 400 miles. The entire storm can be up to 340 miles in diameter, dominating the ocean surface and lower atmosphere for thousands of square miles.
Q. How Does a Hurricane Form?
A. Hurricanes only form over warm waters in the tropics (usually above 27°C, o. r about 81°F). Think of a hurricane like a giant engine. Its fuel is warm, moist air—which rises from the oceans, causing an area of lower pressure below. Then the air from surrounding areas with higher air pressure pushes into the low-pressure area. Then that “new” air becomes warm and moist and rises, too. As the warm air continues to rise, the surrounding air swirls in to take its place. As the warmed, moist air rises and cools off, the water in the air forms clouds. The whole system of clouds and wind spins and grows, fed by the ocean’s heat and water evaporating from the surface. Around their core, winds grow with great velocity, generating violent seas. Moving ashore, they sweep the ocean inward while spawning tornadoes and producing torrential rain and floods.
Storms that form north of the equator spin counterclockwise. Storms south of the equator spin clockwise. This difference is because of Earth’s rotation on its axis.
Q. How Do We Know a Hurricane Is Coming?
A. Unlike tornadoes or other weather events, no hurricane goes unnoticed, thanks to satellite technology. So, pay attention to hurricane warnings!
A hurricane watch means that hurricane-force winds are possible within 48 hours.
A hurricane warning means that hurricane-force winds are likely within 36 hours.
It usually takes several days to a week for a tropical storm to grow into a hurricane, and there is often plenty of time to take precautionary measures unlike some extreme weather events (such as a tornado).
But if conditions are just right, a powerful major hurricane can develop in just hours. This has been called “rapid intensification” by the National Hurricane Center. When conditions are just perfect, a storm can increase its wind speed 35 mph in 24 hours or less—about two categories on the Saffir-Simpson scale, which grades hurricane strength from 1 to 5. Rapid intensification, however, is rare, with just one or two Atlantic storms per year undergoing such an acceleration.
Q. What Is the Cause of Hurricane Damage?
A. Hurricanes actually weaken when they hit land, because they are no longer being “fed” by the energy from the warm ocean waters. When hurricanes move over large landmasses, they can die out quickly because they lose the power of the heat and condensation. However, they often move far inland, dumping many inches of rain and causing lots of wind damage before they die out completely. So it’s not just high winds that cause danger; it’s the torrential rains and storm surges. A hurricane can last for 2 weeks or more over open water and can follow a path across the entire length of the eastern seaboard, coastal areas, and barrier islands.
Q. Which Areas Are Most Susceptible to Hurricanes?
A. All Atlantic and Gulf coastal areas are subject to hurricanes or tropical storms. Although rarely struck by hurricanes, parts of the Southwest and Pacific Coast suffer heavy rains and floods each year from the remnants of hurricanes spawned off Mexico. Islands such as Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, and Puerto Rico also are subject to hurricanes.
Q. What is a Hurricane Vs. a Tropical Storm?
A. A hurricane is actually one of three kinds of tropical storms, or cyclones, that circulate over tropical waters. The circulation is counterclockwise in the Northern Hemisphere. Tropical cyclones are classified as follows:
Tropical Depression: An organized system of clouds and thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 38 mph (33 knots) or less.
Tropical Storm: An organized system of strong thunderstorms with a defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 39 to 73 mph (34 to 63 knots).
Hurricane: An intense tropical weather system with a well-defined circulation and maximum sustained winds of 74 mph (64 knots) or higher. In the western Pacific, hurricanes are called typhoons. Similar storms in the Indian Ocean are called cyclones. Hurricanes are further classified by rank according to how strong their winds are.
Q. How Are Hurricanes Classified and What Are Hurricane Categories?
A. The Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Scale is a 1 to 5 rating based on the hurricane’s present intensity. This is used to give an estimate of the potential property damage and flooding expected along the coast from a hurricane landfall. Wind speed is the determining factor in the scale, as storm surge values are highly dependent on the slope of the continental shelf in the landfall region. Wind speeds are measured using a 1-minute average.