Even In a “Near Normal” Storm Season, the Risk is High and Preparedness is Paramount

Articles & Insights Jun 12 2023

Author: Scott Stoermer, MPA, MS, Practice Lead - Response Operations, Witt O'Brien's

The 2023 Atlantic hurricane season—which runs from June 1st to November 30th may be slightly below-normal according to The Colorado State University Tropical Meteorology Project team while NOAA predicts the season to be near-normal with 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.

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).

According to NOAA, competing factors—some that suppress storm development and others that fuel it—are driving this year’s overall forecast for a near-normal season. These include changes in atmospheric conditions, such as the presence of a weak El Niño or a La Niña pattern. After three hurricane seasons with La Niña present, NOAA predicts a high potential for El Niño to develop this summer. Moderate or strong El Niño events typically have a dampening impact on tropical cyclone activity in the Atlantic basin.

In addition to the Atlantic seasonal outlook, NOAA’s seasonal hurricane outlooks for the eastern Pacific and central Pacific hurricane basins indicate an above-normal season is most likely (55% chance). There is a 35% chance of a near-normal season and only a 10% chance of a below-normal season.

When comparing the 2023 Atlantic storm season predictions to previous years, several similarities and differences emerge. The 1991-2020 seasons averaged 14 named storms, 7 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes. Since the current Atlantic high-activity era began in 1995, 19 of 28 (about 68%) seasons have had above-normal activity, and only 5 (18%) and 4 (15%) have had near- and below-normal activity. The 2023 North Atlantic hurricane season could be the second consecutive near-normal season. The last pair of near-normal seasons was 2006 and 2007.

NOAA stresses that predicting specific location, number, timing, and intensity of hurricane landfalls are ultimately related to the daily weather patterns and are not predictable weeks or months in advance. As a result, it is not possible to reliably predict the number or intensity of landfalling hurricanes in a seasonal outlook—or whether a given locality will be impacted by a tropical storm or hurricane this season.

By understanding and monitoring storm season predictions, governments, emergency management agencies, and the general public can take proactive measures to mitigate the potential impact of severe weather events. Weather readiness means knowing what to do when an emergency hits, so you can act with conviction, working within a reliable structure and supported by the right resources. Witt O’Brien’s can help.

Our preparedness team brings decades of expertise in emergency planning, supported by deep knowledge of program assessment, training and exercises, and project management. Our mitigation planning experts assess and quantify hazard risks, and identify practical, fundable solutions that reduce vulnerability and increase community resilience.

To learn more about our storm readiness and mitigation services visit: https://www.wittobriens.com/solutions/government-solutions

About Scott Stoermer

Scott brings more than 25 years of incident and emergency management experience to lead our Government Solutions Response Operations Practice. He served in a variety of capacities over 20 years in the Coast Guard, inclusive of the Sector Commander responsible for Coast Guard operations in an area comprised of eleven states and over 2,200 miles of commercially navigable waterways on the Upper Mississippi, Missouri and Illinois rivers and their tributaries. He is also a Nationally certified Type 1 Incident Commander with a proven track record of delivering solutions during the most challenging crises.