After two years of relatively mild hurricane seasons, 2023 will see above-average hurricane activity, researchers predict.

The forecasters expect the number of major hurricanes this year to be similar to 2017, which saw the extremely intense hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria.

Since 2014, hurricane activity has been accurately predicted by a model created by Xubin Zeng, a professor of hydrology and atmospheric sciences at the University of Arizona, and his former graduate student Kyle Davis.

“We are not expecting this to be as damaging as 2017,” Zeng says. That said, he emphasizes that “people should get prepared.”

“This will be a very active hurricane season. That’s our message,” says Zeng, adding that the East Coast and Gulf Coast are typically the regions where hurricanes have the greatest impacts.

The researchers are forecasting nine hurricanes this year, five of which are expected to be major hurricanes. Historically, the average number of hurricanes per year has been seven. In 2017, there were 10 hurricanes, six of which were very damaging, Zeng says. The good news this year, is that fewer hurricane landfalls are expected compared to 2017.

This year is particularly interesting, Zeng says, because there will be a fight between two big ocean basins over which will have greater influence on hurricane activities, thanks to the rising eastern Pacific Ocean sea surface temperature compared to previous years.

“We expect a good, nice El Niño to come back after a few years of La Niña,” Zeng explains.

El Niño and La Niña are two opposite extremes of sea surface temperatures, rainfall, surface pressure, and atmospheric circulation happening across the equatorial Pacific Ocean. While El Niño represents an above-average temperature of the sea surface over the eastern Pacific, La Niña refers to the periodic cooling of sea surface temperature. This year, due to the activity of El Niño, or the warm phase, less hurricane activity would be expected over the North Atlantic.

But at the same time, the ocean surface temperature over the Atlantic this year will also be very warm, and that tends to increase hurricane activities, Zeng adds.

The forecasting team is not yet certain which ocean basin will be the “winner” in the battle and will update its predictions in June.

Read the full article about 2023 hurricane season by Niranjana Rajalakshmi at Futurity.