The 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season was “above-normal” in terms of tropical activity, according to a comprehensive summary of the season released by Colorado State University’s (CSU) Tropical Meteorology Project on Nov. 28.
This year’s busy hurricane season officially ends on Nov. 30. Spawning a total of 20 named cyclones, the 2023 season qualifies as one of the most active on record because of the number of storms that formed. Additionally, sea surface temperatures were among the highest ever recorded across portions of the Atlantic Ocean.
“The 2023 hurricane season ended up an above-normal season, with several records being set over the course of the year,” according to the CSU post-season report.
“20 named storms formed in the Atlantic this season. That is tied with 1933 for the 4th most on record, trailing 2020 (30 named storms), 2005 (28 named storms), and 2021 (21 named storms),” the update continued.
The USVI avoided significant and direct impacts from hurricanes this year. Still, the local islands experienced some indirect effects from Tropical Storm Bret, Tropical Storm Philippe, Hurricane Tammy, and Hurricane Lee. The primary storm impacts witnessed across the territory were rough seas, heavy rainfall, and hefty wind.
Other areas of the United States were not as fortunate, including the “Big Bend” region of Florida, which was impacted by major Hurricane Idalia on Aug. 30.
“The most notable continental U.S. hurricane landfall was Idalia, which made landfall as a Category 3 major hurricane in the Big Bend region of Florida. Idalia was responsible for five fatalities in the continental United States and [approximately] $2.5 billion in damage, according to the National Centers for Environmental Information,” the CSU update stated.
Additional 2023 Hurricane Season Events
CSU reported several noteworthy occurrences during the season, including a large amount of tropical activity despite an ongoing “El Niño” event, which typically helps to suppress cyclonic development in the Atlantic and Caribbean. (El Nino is a weather pattern that involves warming the central and eastern equatorial Pacific Ocean, affecting weather across the globe.)
Reduced wind shear and extraordinarily high sea surface temperatures across the Atlantic and Caribbean likely counteracted some of El Niño’s typical, detrimental effects on cyclonic development.
“El Niño conditions prevailed throughout the 2023 Atlantic hurricane season. El Niño typically increases tropical Atlantic and Caribbean vertical wind shear, which was below normal across most of the tropical Atlantic and Caribbean from August through October,” the update explained.
The report explained that extremely warm sea surface temperatures broke records throughout hurricane season.
“Tropical Atlantic sea surface temperatures were at record warm levels during the peak of the 2023 hurricane season. These anomalously warm waters and associated low pressures in the tropical Atlantic were likely the reason why El Niño did not have its normal teleconnection to above-normal shear across the tropical Atlantic,” the update continued.
“These warm sea surface temperatures persisted throughout the peak of the hurricane season from August–October. The Main Development Region [an area of the Atlantic Ocean between Africa and the Caribbean where cyclones typically develop] set monthly sea surface temperature records for August, September and October,” the update noted.
While hurricane season officially ends on Nov. 30, tropical development may occur during the off-season.
USVI visitors and residents are encouraged to continue to follow the National Hurricane Center for the latest weather alerts. Information about severe weather, including emergency shelters and warnings, is also available from the Virgin Islands Territorial Emergency Management Agency and the National Weather Service.
Additionally, weather updates and a Weekly Weather Video are available on the Source Weather Page.