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Looking ahead to the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season

May is a good time to make preparations for the upcoming hurricane season that gets underway on June 1.

WASHINGTON — The Atlantic hurricane season officially gets underway on June 1. That means April and May are the ideal time to make the necessary preparations should you live in an at-risk area. 

Areas of the United States that are at risk include anywhere along the Texas coastline all the way to Florida and up the east coast.

There are some important clues pointing to how active the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season might or might not be. 

NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center issued an “El Nino Watch” on May 11 with the expectation of El Nino conditions to develop by July. Currently, neither El Nino or La Nina conditions are present following three years of weak to moderate La Nina conditions.

El Nino conditions are characterized by warmer than average ocean water in the tropical east Pacific, off the west coast of Mexico. This has global impacts on the weather because El Nino also contributes to below average sea surface temperatures in the tropical Atlantic combined with elevated levels of wind shear. Both conditions tend to preclude tropical development in the Atlantic Ocean.

Tropical storms and hurricanes require warm ocean water, typically at least 80 degrees, of sufficient depth, combined with little or no wind shear. “Wind shear” are winds of different speeds and direction at different levels of the atmosphere. Wind shear interrupts the circulation of a tropical storm or hurricane and either causes weakening or prevents development altogether.

An “average” Atlantic hurricane season has 14 tropical storms (sustained winds of 39 – 73 mph), of which seven become hurricanes (sustained winds of at least 74 mph) with three major hurricanes.

A “major hurricane” is defined as a Category 3 or greater on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale with sustained winds of at least 111 mph.

Colorado State University’s team of meteorologists and hurricane experts has already issued its forecast for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season.

Its experts are calling for a slightly below average season largely due to the expected development of El Nino over the next couple of months with 13 tropical storms, six hurricanes and two major hurricanes. 

NOAA will issue its seasonal hurricane forecast on May 25.   

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