For daily wit & wisdom, sign up for the Almanac newsletter.
The 2023 hurricane forecast is now available. Find out how the United States and Canada may be affected by Earth’s most powerful storms. Plus, find answers to common questions about hurricanes.
When is the 2023 Hurricane Season
The Atlantic hurricane season officially lasts from June 1 to 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—the area encompassing the Atlantic Ocean, Caribbean Sea, and Gulf of Mexico.
When it comes to hurricanes, there are many indicators related to atmospheric and oceanic conditions that 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.
Below is CUS’s early (April) forecast which was released on Thursday, April 13.
We anticipate that the 2023 Atlantic basin hurricane season will have slightly below-average activity. Current neutral ENSO conditions look fairly likely to transition to El Niño this summer/fall. However, there is considerable uncertainty as to how strong an El Niño would be, if it does develop. Sea surface temperatures in the eastern and central Atlantic are much warmer than normal, so if a robust El Niño does not develop, the potential still exists for a busy Atlantic hurricane season. Larger-than-normal uncertainty exists with this outlook.
We anticipate a near-average probability for major hurricanes making landfall along the continental United States coastline and in the Caribbean. 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.
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.
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.
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, or 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.