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The tropical storm and hurricane season may be close to normal

| May 29, 2023 1:05 AM

We’re getting close to the official start of the 2023 tropical storm and hurricane season that begins June 1. Thanks to the current La Nada pattern, the in-between warmer El Niño and cooler La Niña, many hurricane forecasters are predicting a season that would be close to normal in the Atlantic and Caribbean waters.

Forecasters from Colorado State University are predicting 13 named storms with six of them becoming hurricanes. At least two of these predicted hurricanes could develop into major events. According to NOAA, over the last 20 years, the average number of named storms for each season is approximately 14.

Cliff and I would go along with this prediction, especially with the potential of a new El Niño in the coming months. With the warming of ocean temperatures along the equatorial regions, wind shear conditions often form that decrease the chances of the development of tropical systems in the Atlantic and Caribbean waters. However, in the central and eastern Pacific basins, an El Niño event favors stronger hurricane activity. Although the chances of fewer named storms in the Atlantic and Caribbean regions are lower during an El Niño, the warmer waters can still enhance the storms that do form and pose a sizable risk to land areas.

During the 2022 season, there were 14 named storms that included eight hurricanes. Two of those hurricanes were major, including Hurricane Ian. This hurricane brought significant damage to western Cuba, the southwestern and central portions of Florida and the Carolinas. When Ian was finished, the total damage was estimated at a whopping $113.1 billion. Hurricane Nicole was the last storm of the season and made landfall near the same region in Florida as Ian. It was the first hurricane to hit Florida since Kate in 1985 and caused another $1 billion in damage.

Despite the near-normal named storms, the 2022 Atlantic hurricane season was the first since 1997 to report no tropical storm formation in August, the month when it’s often the most active. Also, it was the first season in recorded history not to have a named storm in August with a La Niña event. Typically, during La Niña years, the tropical storm and hurricane seasons are more active than normal.

The 2021 season was the third-most active on record as it produced 21 named storms. It was also the second season in a row, and third overall, in which all storm names were used. However, starting with the 2021 season, the Greek alphabet is no longer used when named storms exceed 21. Instead, they will use a “supplemental list” of names based on the modern English alphabet. There have been 21 names per list and those beginning with Q, U, X, Y and Z are not on the list because the WMO said those letters are “not common enough or easily understood in local languages to be slotted into the rotating lists.”

Storm names are retired when they are very deadly or destructive and are replaced by other names with the same letter. Since 1953, there have been 96 named storms that have been retired, including Ian and Fiona for the 2022 season. They will be replaced by Idris and Farrah in the 2028 season as storm names are recycled every six years. The year with the most retired named storms was 2005 with five.

By the way, the letter “I” is the most retired letter of the alphabet. Including Ian, there have been 13 named storms that have been retired beginning with “I”. Ten of these names were retired within the last 20 years. The letter “F” is in second place with 10 retired names.

In terms of our local weather, much of the shower and thunderstorm activity missed Coeur d’Alene as the moisture went around our area. Sea-surface temperatures are warming along the equatorial regions, and it looks like we’re starting to see a trend toward the drier side in the overall weather pattern. Prior to the 0.34 inches of rain Sunday, only 0.02 inches of rain was measured within the past week. However, many have pointed out that the weather was very good, despite the recent dry spell.

There is still the chance of more scattered showers and thunderstorm activity in the early to mid-portion of June. As I mentioned last week, the late June through August period will likely be drier than average, but we don’t believe it will be quite as dry as last year. Also, we don’t expect to have another 90-degree day until at least the middle of next month.

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Contact Randy Mann at randy@longrangeweather.com.