One early hurricane forecast

courtesy National Hurricane Center/NOAA

Very few seasonal hurricane forecasts come out before April simply because the skill level is not there. About all you can go on now is water temperature and, sometimes, the forecast for La Nina/El Nino. Saying that, a group out of England called Tropical Storm Risk issued their first 2023 hurricane forecast last December(!), and below you’ll see they are calling for a fairly average season citing stronger trade winds last summer and noting that historically a year that follows three La Nina seasons usually comes in about average.

They call for a slightly below average season

What I did find interesting about this chart is the ‘normal’ activity over the past 10, 30 and 73 years. I would guess that in the case of more tropical storms we are probably able to see them much better with improved satellites over the years. The number of those becoming hurricanes or major (Category 3+) hurricanes hasn’t really changed that much over the past 30 plus years. Tropical Storm Risk is pretty upfront about skill level for a forecast this far out and you can read their full report right here.

La Nina leaving?

What everyone is asking about is the current La Nina (cooler Pacific waters) and is it fading? And if so, will we see an El Nino build? That is important because the warmer Pacific waters with El Nino produce strong winds across the Caribbean which tend to knock down developing storms. I’ve posted the following comparison of hurricanes during La Nina years (a lot) versus El Nino years (much less):

Many more hurricanes show up during La Nina years!

There are, of course, neutral years which are not taken into account in the above graphic and you can see all of WFLA-TV’s comparison report here.

The latest reports from December indicate that La Nina is fading, but that doesn’t guarantee an El Nino. In fact, if anything you’ll notice below that the red line (the model consensus) goes barely above the 0° line indicating a weak El Nino may develop in late summer:

By July/August/September we may see a weak El Nino

But it sure looks like La Nina is definitely out of here. And while El Nino winds help curb the hurricane season for us, those winds can also bring more moisture into the state. And too much moisture can lead to serious flooding, so that is the downside for us. Always something to watch!

By the way, yesterday was National Weatherperson’s Day! So a belated salute to all my weather colleagues both professional and hobbyists! Feb. 5 is the birthday of the ‘father of weather’ John Jeffries and I blogged about him a couple of years ago right here. Have a look!


Email me with questions, comments and ideas!

About the Authors:

KPRC 2's chief meteorologist with three decades of experience forecasting Houston's weather.

Amanda Cochran is an Edward R. Murrow award-winning journalist. She specializes in Texas features, consumer and business news and local crime coverage.