Last year featured yet another hot summer for many, as the United States saw its 12th consecutive warmer than normal summer overall. On the tropical side of things, however, the Atlantic experienced a hurricane season with near-normal activity. Perhaps we have turned the tides to a less busy hurricane season for the moment, but we still have summers that feature multiple heatwaves across the United States. Is there any hope for a cooler season this year?
Summer Temperature Forecast
WeatherWorks forecast for temperature anomalies across the Lower 48 (June thru August)
For some, there is! The eastern parts of the country are expected to escape the worst of the heat early on. In fact, the coolest regions relative to average this year will be near the Gulf Coast, as sustained heat will largely stay away from this part of the country. Unfortunately, some will waste no time feeling the wrath of summer's heat, with the worst of it starting off quickly in the central Plains. This heat shifts somewhat to the northern part of the country during the middle part of the summer. Those in the Ohio Valley, Mid-Atlantic, and Northeast will only escape the heat for so long, as late July and August turn substantially hotter with multiple heatwaves becoming more likely.
Summer Precipitation Forecast
WeatherWorks forecast for precipitation anomalies across the Lower 48 (June thru August)
United States Drought Conditions
Current Drought Monitor (Courtesy of NOAA/CPC/UNL)
The U.S. drought conditions map shown above tells the story with an ongoing severe drought in the central and southern Plains. This supports our ideas of the driest weather staying in these areas for the first part of the summer. Unfortunately, the ongoing drought can certainly continue getting worse before it gets better. Meanwhile, the current dry spell in the Northeast is expected to turn around a bit, as beneficial showers and storms early in the summer likely produce above-normal rainfall in some areas. With this comes an above-average risk of severe weather as well, with the Northeast on the edge between the heat and cooler weather during the first part of summer. Once we pass this, the drier weather is expected to shift into the Ohio Valley and Northeast later in the summer, raising drought concerns.
Meanwhile, the Southeastern U.S. is expected to see a wetter than normal pattern with an increased risk of severe weather for much of the summer. The pattern then trends somewhat drier late in the summer, but this will certainly not be a hot and dry summer overall for this region.
This pattern featuring drier/hotter weather to the north and cooler/wetter weather to the south resembles a pattern found in an El Niño, which we are forecasting to enter as we head through the summer months.
Our Atlantic Hurricane Season Forecast
WeatherWorks forecast for the 2023 Atlantic Hurricane Season
Speaking of El Niño, this will play a significant role in how the hurricane season turns out in the Atlantic Basin. Similar to last year, we are expecting a somewhat quick start to the season. However, activity is expected to slow down relative to average during the peak of the season in August/September. Nevertheless, the majority of hurricanes this year will still likely occur during the peak, as any early storms on are expected to stay on the weaker side. Unlike last year, the late part of the season looks to be quiet, helping to produce near to slightly below average activity for the season overall.
Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies Support A Quick Start To Season
Current Sea Surface Temperature Anomalies (Courtesy of Tropical Tidbits)
The map above is a representation of how warm or cool the sea surface temperatures are relative to normal across the Atlantic Basin. You can see that the Caribbean and much of the central and eastern Atlantic are warm. This supports our idea of a relatively quick start to the Hurricane Season, as these warmer waters will provide energy for storms. There is typically a lag period between El Niño's arrival and when impacts are felt from it. This should help keep wind shear down early on. Low wind shear is beneficial for the development of tropical systems.
Ensembles Support Development Of El Niño
EL Nino/La Niña Forecast (Courtesy of ECMWF)
Once El Niño arrives, it has the potential to become moderate or even strong by the fall, which will increase wind shear in the Atlantic. Increased wind shear makes it much more difficult for storms to form or stay sustained, hence why we mentioned a less than active period during the peak of the season. In terms of storm tracks, the analog upper air patterns support a fair number of storms escaping out to sea, despite a few possibly tracking across much of the Atlantic. Our analogs support some storms possibly impacting Florida or the Gulf. However, if a stronger storm were to develop, it is more likely it would skirt parts of the South or even New England than make a direct landfall in the United States. Overall, we are expecting a low probability of direct impacts from Virginia to New England with the highest risk of direct impacts occurring from the Carolinas to Florida.
Favored Storm Tracks
WeatherWorks thoughts on favored storm tracks this season
So while we are not expecting a busy Hurricane Season overall, it only takes one to make it memorable. Hurricane Ian reminded us of that last year.