Hurricane Beryl approaches the Yucatan Peninsula

In a new and stark warning for the upcoming Atlantic hurricane season, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration on Thursday predicted that between 17 and 25 named tropical storms could form this year — the most the agency has ever forecast for the Atlantic in a May month.

NOAA’s forecast joins more than a dozen recent predictions from experts from universities, private companies and other government agencies. It predicts the possibility of more than 14 named storms forming. Many were predicting a number well over 20 this season.

NOAA Administrator Rick Spinrad said: Thursday morning press conference Weather service forecasters expect 8 to 13 of the named storms could develop into hurricanes, with winds of at least 74 mph, including 4 to 7 major hurricanes of Category 3 or higher, with winds of at least 111 mph.

Wreckage left behind by Hurricane Idalia in the Big Bend region of Florida last August. Idalia was one of the strongest storms of 2023.credit…Zach Whitman, The New York Times

According to NOAA, 85 There is a 10% chance of an above-normal season and a 10% chance of a normal season. There is a 5 percent chance of a below-normal season. An average Atlantic hurricane season produces 14 named storms, including seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

While a single storm during a below-average season can devastate a community, when conditions are right for a storm nearly twice as big as the average, North America is more likely to experience a tropical cyclone or, even worse, a major hurricane.

This year’s official Arashi name list has 21 entries. Albert to WilliamOnce that list is exhausted, the National Weather Service List of Alternative NamesThis is something the company has only done twice in its history.

Devastation after Hurricane Ian in Fort Myers Beach, Florida, 2022.credit…Damon Winter/The New York Times

NOAA typically releases its forecasts in May, followed by an updated forecast in August. Before Thursday, NOAA’s most significant May forecast was for 2010, which predicted 14 to 23 named storms. That year, 19 ultimately occurred by the end of the season. In 2020, the May forecast had 13 to 19 named storms, but the August updated forecast had even more, with 19 to 25 named storms. That season ultimately saw 30 named storms.

This year’s hurricane forecast is particularly challenging due to the unprecedented conditions expected.

Heading into the official season start on June 1, forecasters are seeing a combination of conditions never seen in records going back to the mid-1800s: record-warm ocean temperatures in the Atlantic Ocean and the potential for a La Niña weather pattern to form.

Brian McNoldy, a University of Miami researcher who specializes in hurricane formation, said that without past examples of conditions like these, forecasters trying to predict the upcoming season can only guess from past anomalies.

Experts are concerned about rising ocean temperatures.

“We’re going to have a very active hurricane season,” said Phil Klotzbach, a seasonal hurricane forecasting expert at Colorado State University.

A key area of ​​the Atlantic where hurricanes form is already experiencing unusually warm temperatures just before the start of the season, a situation that Benjamin Cartman, a professor of atmospheric sciences at the University of Miami, called “unprecedented,” “alarming,” and “anomaly.”

Over the past century, water temperatures have risen gradually, but last year they rose more dramatically in the hurricane-prone Atlantic basin with enough intensity to worry climate scientists. This region, stretching from West Africa to Central America, is warmer this year than it was before the start of last year’s hurricane season, when 20 named storms formed.

Current temperatures in the Atlantic are of concern as they mean the ocean could provide additional fuel for any storms that develop. Even if the surface were to suddenly cool, temperatures below the surface are also expected to rapidly reheat as they are significantly warmer than average.

These warm temperatures energize storm formation and help them persist. Sometimes, if other atmospheric conditions don’t hinder a storm’s development, it can intensify more quickly than usual and leapfrog hurricane status in less than a day.

Rising temperatures, combined with an El Niño weather pattern that began weakening rapidly in early May, are making forecasters more confident that this year’s hurricane season will produce more storms than usual.

As El Niño weather events have passed and La Niña weather events have become more likely, forecasts have become more reliable.

El Niño is caused by changes in ocean temperatures in the Pacific Ocean and affects weather patterns around the world. When El Niño is strong, it typically stunts the development and growth of storms. Last year, warmer waters in the Atlantic weakened the El Niño’s influence, reducing its impact. If El Niño subsides as forecasters predict, there won’t be as many weakening factors this time around.

Forecasters who specialize in the ebb and flow of El Niño weather, including Michel Leroux of the National Weather Service’s Climate Prediction Center, are now convinced that not only will El Niño fade, but there is a 77 percent chance that a La Niña event will develop during the peak of hurricane season.

He said the weather system could produce some surprises, but so far in the spring, things are developing exactly as forecasters expected. La Niña weather patterns are already shaping up to be an above-average year. A possible La Niña, combined with record sea surface temperatures this hurricane season, is expected to create conditions for storms to form and intensify this year.

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