(NEXSTAR) – National forecasters recently upped the chances that a “potentially significant” El Niño will form soon. Also scheduled to start soon, on June 1, is hurricane season. The strength and location of storms we see could be influenced by the return of El Niño for the first time in years.
While El Niño can strengthen hurricane season in the central and eastern Pacific, it tends to contribute to weaker hurricanes forming in the Atlantic basin. During La Niña years, the opposite is true.
Hurricane season in the Atlantic and Central Pacific runs from June 1 to Nov. 30 every year. The eastern Pacific season starts a bit earlier, on May 15. The strongest storms are usually observed between mid-August and mid-October.
El Niño is likely to take over between now and July, the Climate Prediction Center said last week. The effects of El Niño tend to strengthen as the year goes on and typically peak in winter.
La Niña has been present for much of the last three hurricane seasons. The last time El Niño overlapped with all of hurricane season was in 2015. Tropical storm activity in the Atlantic Basin that year was “somewhat below average,” the National Weather Service determined.
“Of the 11 tropical storms that formed, 4 became hurricanes, and 2 reached major hurricane strength (category 3 or higher on the Saffir-Simpson Hurricane Wind Scale). In comparison, the 1981-2010 averages are 12 tropical storms, 6 hurricanes, and 3 major hurricanes.”
Meanwhile, tropical storm activity in the eastern Pacific in 2015 was “very active with 18 named storms and 13 hurricanes, of which 9 reached major hurricane strength,” the National Weather Service said. Hurricane Patricia became the strongest hurricane on record before it made landfall in Mexico north of Manzanillo.
This year, long-range forecasters are predicting a slightly below-average hurricane season in the Atlantic. In its annual predictions, Colorado State University forecasted 13 named storms, six hurricanes, and two major hurricanes for 2023.
North Carolina State University released its own predictions, which didn’t stray too far from Colorado State’s. Researchers there expect the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season to bring 11 to 15 named storms, between six and eight of which will grow strong enough to become hurricanes. Two to three of those storms could become major hurricanes, they said.
Mexico’s National Meteorological Service is predicting a much busier storm season in the Pacific: between 26 and 38 storms, with as many as nine of them turning into Category 3 hurricanes or stronger.