Tracking the Tropics team takes a look back at the 2023 hurricane season

TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) — A busy Atlantic hurricane season will finally come to an end on Nov. 30.

This season was considered above-average, with the Atlantic basin churning out 20 storms, including one in January that was later confirmed to be a tropical cyclone.

This season ranks fourth for the most-named storms in a year since 1950, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

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Seven of those named storms were hurricanes, while three intensified into major hurricanes. According to NOAA, the average season produces 14 named storms, seven hurricanes and three major hurricanes.

2023 measured up to estimates by NOAA and Colorado State University (CSU) predicting an above-average, active season. CSU meteorologists initially predicted a slightly below-average season due to uncertainty about the El Niño climate pattern, but they adjusted their estimates as a strong El Niño took hold.

Thanks to the El Niño, few Atlantic cyclones ended up reaching the mainland U.S.

Hurricane Idalia was the only Atlantic hurricane to make landfall in the U.S. this year. On Aug. 30, it came ashore as a Category 3 storm and slammed Florida’s Big Bend region with heavy rains and winds, causing storm surge inundation of 7-to-12 feet.

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Although Hurricane Lee made landfall in Canada as a post-tropical cyclone on Sept. 16, it brought hurricane-force winds, ocean swells and power outages to Maine. Tropical Storm Ophelia made landfall in North Carolina as a strong tropical storm on Sept. 23. A short-lived Tropical Storm Harold impacted south Texas in August.

Another notable storm, Tropical Storm Arlene, formed off the coast of the Florida panhandle and took an unusual southward track through the Gulf of Mexico before fizzling out.

“This is a perfect example of an above-average season that turned out to be pretty quiet for a lot of people, especially south Florida,” WFLA meteorologist Rebecca Barry said.

The 2023 season also saw record-breaking ocean temperatures, which allowed storms like Lee to rapidly intensify.

“It strengthened – I think rapidly is an understatement, because it became a Category 5 so quickly and took advantage of those warm waters,” WFLA meteorologist Amanda Holly said. “Luckily, it stayed just off the Caribbean islands when it passed by at its strongest point.”

“I think one of the things scientists will look back on this season wasn’t in the Atlantic. It was in the Pacific with Hurricane Otis’ extremely rapid intensification,” Barry said. “The people of Acapulco went to bed expecting a tropical storm and woke up to a Category 5 hurricane.”

Otis’ winds increased by 115 mph in just 24 hours, to 165 mph, before slamming Acapulco, Mexico on Oct. 25. According to the National Hurricane Center, Otis was the strongest hurricane to make landfall in the eastern Pacific since the mid-20th century.

“They’re still recovering there in Acapulco, but definitely an interesting storm that will be studied for years to come,” Holly said. “To find out why and what exactly the forecast models missed with that storm.”

With a strong El Niño firmly in place, Florida and the Gulf coast states can expect a wet winter. Areas of low pressure have been forming, feeding off the warm Gulf waters as they skirt along the coast towards Florida. This pattern is expected to continue for the next several months.

These Gulf low pressure systems are non-tropical, but could still bring severe storms and heavy rains to the region.

A weak tropical disturbance could pop up outside of hurricane season, most likely in the Caribbean and south Atlantic, where the ocean is warmer. If that happens, our Tracking the Tropics team will be back to bring you the latest.

Tracking the Tropics will return in 2024, when meteorologists begin to make their predictions for the upcoming season. Hurricane season begins in June, but it’s never too early to get prepared.

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