The quiet hurricane season forecasters expected in the spring has turned into a tinderbox waiting to explode. Record high surface temperatures in water across the globe have created conditions ripe …
The quiet hurricane season forecasters expected in the spring has turned into a tinderbox waiting to explode.
Record high surface temperatures in water across the globe have created conditions ripe for hurricane production.
The change prompted scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to update the hurricane outlook to a 70% chance of 14-21 named storms, including two-five major hurricanes.
That is nearly double the amount of the prediction given in May.
Why the change? Heat.
It was supposed to be quiet
Initially, forecasters at NOAA predicted a below average hurricane season for North America due to the appearance of El Niño.
When scientists measure data to predict the number of hurricanes expected in a season, they take into account the arrival of El Niño and La Niña. The two are opposing climate patterns that occur every two to seven years.
Like children, for which their Spanish names are given, the systems rarely occur on a regular schedule and can wreak havoc on global weather and ecosystems.
Currently, the planet is experiencing El Niño. Traditionally, that means the Atlantic hurricane season is dampened as El Niño tends to increase stability in the atmosphere and stop vertical wind shear, limiting hurricanes' ability to spin and strengthen.
Record high temperatures, however, can offset those factors.
Hurricanes love heat
Scientists are now warning that hurricane activity could be unprecedented because temperatures have risen on land and across the earth's ocean, pushing the mercury past its highest point ever in the planet's history.
In many places, ocean temperature readings are inching toward the 100-degree mark, causing the waves to feel more like hot tubs than open water.
As the ocean warms, storms suck that warm water up. That pushes moisture into the air ,helping to fuel a growing storm. The warmer the water, the stronger the hurricane when it comes.
NOAA reports that marine heat waves are impacting 44% of the Earth's oceans. That number is normally 10%.
In a quote from the agency, scientists there warn the warming could mean "significant impacts on marine life as well as coastal communities and economies."
What does that mean for the Gulf Coast?
A potential for hurricanes. Big ones.
Already a busy season
Typically, hurricane season begins June 1 and ends Nov. 30, but the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season began surprisingly early on Jan. 16, when the National Hurricane Center issued a special tropical weather outlook for a low-pressure system north of Bermuda.
That storm made landfall Jan. 17 near Nova Scotia.
A storm was already brewing off the west coast of Florida on the first official day of the season in June. Tropical Storm Arlene eventually dissipated north of Cuba.
And last week, West Coast residents were socked with the first tropical storm to hit California in 80 years, thanks in part to warmer water temperatures.
As Labor Day approaches, so does the most historically active weeks of hurricane season. The storms that have broken records for lives lost, damage cost and destruction spread have all rolled ashore after Aug. 15.
Currently, the National Hurricane Center is monitoring three storms in the Atlantic and Caribbean.
Tropical Storm Franklin is making landfall over the Dominican Republic with 50 mile-per-hour winds while two more disturbances linger in the middle of the Atlantic.
To follow the progress of these storms and updates from the National Hurricane Center, visit www.nhc.noaa.gov.