People in the Caribbean and other hurricane-prone areas can breathe a sigh of relief since the 2023 Hurricane Season ended on Thursday, November 30. Scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) said it was one of the busiest seasons on record with 20 named storms, seven hurricanes, three of which became major hurricanes.
The organization revealed that 2023 ranked fourth for the most-named storms in a year since 1950. Only the very active hurricane seasons of 2020, 2005, and 2021 had more. The 2023 season was described as “above average,” since according to the NOAA an “average season” has 14 named storms, seven hurricanes, and three major hurricanes.
Dominica did not suffer a direct hit from any of the named storms this year but got close calls from Bret and Phillipe. On Thursday, June 22, Bret forced the closure of school and suspension of the work day at noon but passed south of the island. Likewise, on October 3, schools across the country were closed because of Phillipe but the storm veered north of Dominica, making landfall on Barbuda before moving on to U.S. and British Virgin Islands.
This year’s above-average season took place despite the presence of the El Niño weather phenomenon, which is the above-average sea-surface temperatures that periodically develop across the east-central equatorial Pacific.
When El Niño is strong, it normally suppresses Atlantic storms and the number of named storms is typically lower but in 2023 meteorologists said unprecedented warm temperatures in the Atlantic, linked to climate change, fueled storm formation.
“The Atlantic basin produced the most named storms of any El Niño-influenced year in the modern record,” Matthew Rosencrans, lead hurricane forecaster at NOAA’s Climate Prediction Center said, referring to the 2023 hurricane season.
“The record-warm ocean temperatures in the Atlantic provided a strong counterbalance to the traditional El Nino impacts.”
El Niño is expected to end next year and with global temperatures on the rise, some forecasters are saying there’s “high potential” for an even more active hurricane season in 2024. Despite the above-average 2023 hurricane season, there was a remarkably low death toll.
Unofficially, three storms caused a total loss of life of 12. In the Dominican Republic, there were two deaths that were directly linked to Hurricane Franklin, there were three deaths directly linked to Hurricane Lee in the United States, and Hurricane Idalia caused seven direct and three indirect deaths in the United States.