Meteorologists are worried about what future hurricane seasons may look like given the outcome of this year’s storms.
As of Thursday, 19 named storms have formed this year, with the addition of one unnamed subtropical storm that formed in January. The storm count has already surpassed the average of 14 storms per season, and there’s still more than a month left in the 2023 season. This year’s season has turned out to be an active one despite the forming of El Niño, which can decrease the number of storms.
El Niño is a climate pattern that starts with warm water building up in the tropical Pacific Ocean west of South America. El Niño usually warrants more wind shear, which decreases the number of storms forming in the Atlantic and leads to a “quieter than normal” hurricane season, according to WFLA Chief Meteorologist and Climate Specialist Jeff Berardelli.
However, this year, the climate phenomenon was in an “unprecedented battle” with the “exceedingly hot water temperatures in the Atlantic,” Berardelli said, and meteorologists were unsure which climate component would win out during the hurricane season, as warm water temperatures can lead to a more active hurricane season.
With more than a month left in the season, it appears that the warm Atlantic waters won the battle against El Niño’s wind shear. Berardelli told Newsweek that is a concerning sign for the future.
“If this year is any hint as to what the future holds because of the warm waters’ ability to make active hurricane seasons and El Niño’s inability to beat it…that’s a concern,” Berardelli said. “We could continue to see these very active Atlantic seasons like what we’ve seen this summer.”
The season is a bad sign of what the future might bring.
“It doesn’t bode well for future years,” Berardelli said. “The Atlantic may not be nearly as warm [in the future] because it was so off-the-charts hot. We couldn’t have imagined it being this warm. But it doesn’t bode well for heading into the future because the Atlantic is not going to cool down below normal. If anything, it’s going to slowly trend warmer over the decades.”
Although El Niño was unable to counter the warmer temperatures that caused the active season, it did mitigate the season from “being an absolute catastrophe” by keeping the storms on the weak side, Berardelli said. Many of this year’s storms have been weaker than usual, outside of a few strong storms such as Hurricane Idalia, which tore through Florida’s western coast in August as a Category 3 hurricane.
“It’s conceivable…that El Niño has helped to mitigate the intensity of this season,” Berardelli said. “I would’ve hated to see water temperatures as hot as they were not in El Niño because then all bets are off without an El Niño to at least slow or quiet the extraordinary amount of potential.”
Berardelli warned that with still five weeks left in the season, there is plenty of potential for strong storms to develop before November 30.